Drew Brees was heartbroken by reaction to his NFL kneeling comments

Drew Brees still plans to stand for the national anthem, but his new stance on others who do not remains the same in the wake of the backlash he received for critical comments of those who take a knee to peacefully protest racial inequality and police brutality.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the Saints’ quarterback said it “broke my heart” and it was “crushing” that he upset so many people with his initial comments about the controversial issue, and he is doing his best to understand where others are coming from by protesting during the national anthem.

“I acknowledge and respect anyone who chooses to kneel or any other form of peaceful protest to bring attention to the social injustices and systemic racism that so many have endured and continue to endure in our country,” Brees said.

Brees apologized twice after the firestorm began, even tweeting at President Donald Trump that the flag can’t be used as a prop to distract from problems facing black communities. Several teammates publicly accepted his apology.

“Going back to my comment on June 3rd, to think for a second that New Orleans or the state of Louisiana or the black community would think that I was not standing with them for social justice, that completely broke my heart,” he said. “It was crushing. Never ever would I feel that way. Now, I recognize that I missed an opportunity that day. I had an opportunity to talk about and emphasize the social injustices that exist for our black community and our need as a country to support them and to advocate for systemic change. And my lack of awareness in that moment hurt a lot of people.

“I will always support and advocate for the black and brown communities in the fight for social justice. Always. … I’m the same person now that I’ve always been. I’m someone who cares deeply for people in my community, New Orleans, the state of Louisiana, people everywhere. I’m someone who will always address the inequities and the disparities that exist. I’m someone who has great empathy for those who are hurting, struggling or victims of injustice. And I’m someone who feels a great sense of responsibility to serve and to lead and to bring true equality to everyone.”

This could be the 41-year-old Brees’ final season, granted there is a season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. He has already agreed to serve as a television analyst for NBC when he is done playing. Coach Sean Payton hinted this could be it for Brees, but the likely future Hall of Fame quarterback declined to comment on his future.

“With the new normal, we’re navigating that. And I’m just taking it literally one day at a time,” Brees said. “Listen, I’m excited for this season. There’s obviously a lot of unknowns and a lot of variables and a lot of things that we’re gonna have to navigate. But I think that’s something we’ve always been good at.

“And going back to the reason I came back [for this season]. My wife and I had this conversation back when I made the decision. Yes, I’m coming back and I want to play for my team. But I also feel that this year is gonna be about something much greater than football. And, at this point, I think that was an understatement.”

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