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Drew Brees responds to Trump: 'We must stop talking about the flag' and focus on 'real issues'
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Friday pushed back after President Trump said the football player should not have apologized for controversial statements against athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racism.
In an Instagram post directed at the president, Brees said he has realized that the issue at hand is not about the American flag.
"It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities," Brees wrote.
"We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform," he added.
Brees said earlier this week that he still does not support NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, saying he "will never agree with anybody disrespecting" the country or its flag.
The comments were met with swift pushback, with critics saying they appeared tone deaf in the face of national protests against the killing of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis.
The athlete issued a length apology on Thursday for his "insensitive" remarks, saying they "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.
The president, however, maintained that Brees should not have apologized.
"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. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high," Trump tweeted Friday.
"We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!" he added.
In his response to the president, Brees said the white community "needs to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us."
Trump has frequently railed against athletes who kneel during the national anthem as a silent protest against police brutality and systemic racism.
The gesture was started by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016, but Trump has said the National Football League should fire players who join the protest.