President Trump said Friday that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees should not have apologized after he faced widespread criticism for saying he is opposed to the practice of kneeling in protest during the national anthem.
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“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag,” Trump wrote on Twitter. "OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high...”
“We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart,” Trump added. “There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!”
Brees faced immediate scrutiny earlier this week after he told Yahoo Finance that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.” The former Super Bowl champion explained that both of his grandfathers served in the U.S. military during World War II, adding that he views the flag as a symbol of unity.
Several prominent athletes, including NBA superstar LeBron James, were critical of Brees’ remarks. Brees’ teammate, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, said he was “hurt” by the quarterback’s stance on the protests.
A remorseful Brees walked back his earlier comments in a lengthy apology post on Thursday.
“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country,” Brees said. “They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character.”
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the 2016 season to protest police brutality and racial injustice. Countless athletes in the NFL and other leagues have taken up the practice in recent years.
Trump was publicly critical of NFL anthem protests during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, at one point urging team owners to fire any player who knelt.