‘Completely missed the mark’: Drew Brees apologizes for comments on kneeling during national anthem

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Thursday said he “completely missed the mark” after receiving backlash for his comments regarding NFL players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.

"I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused," Brees wrote in part on Instagram. "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.“

“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,” he said.

Quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints passes during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on Jan. 5, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Brees told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday that he would never agree with the gesture of kneeling during the national anthem.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States,” the 41-year-old quarterback said, who likened standing for the national anthem to saluting the military.

Brees’ comments, made amid widespread protests across the U.S. over police brutality and race relations in the wake of George Floyd’s death, were met with a strong reaction by many.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James wrote on Twitter that kneeling during the anthem has “nothing to do” with disrespecting the flag and U.S. soldiers. James referred to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who famously helped start a wave of protests over police brutality and racial inequality in 2016 by kneeling during the national anthem at games.

"WOW MAN!! Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free," James wrote. "My father-in-law was one of those men who fought as well for this country. I asked him question about it and thank him all the time for his commitment. He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong! God bless you.“

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As part of his Instagram post, Brees said he recognizes that he is “part of the solution” and vowed to “do less talking and more listening.”

“I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference. I condemn the years of oppression that have taken place throughout our black communities and still exists today. I acknowledge that we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community,” Brees wrote. “I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right."

He concluded: “I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy. I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening...and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.”

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This story was reported from Cincinnati.