Drew Brees has been widely criticized around the NFL after he said Wednesday that he still did not support players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial discrimination before NFL games, which began with Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed joined the conversation, calling Brees a "straight sucka" and a "punk" for his remarks in an Instagram video.
"Why do you think all of these young people are out here protesting?" Reed added. "Why you think they're out here protesting? The looting? I could see you speaking on the looting and saying that's bad, you don't support that. But why do you think all these young people are out here protesting?"
Brees made his comments during an interview with Yahoo Finance's Daniel Roberts, citing his two grandfathers who fought in World War II for the reason he didn't support Kaepernick's form of protest.
Yahoo Finance @YahooFinance
Highlight: @readdanwrite asks @drewbrees what the star NFL quarterback thinks about "players kneeling again when the NFL season starts." @drewbrees: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.” Full exchange: https://t.co/MpCkFyOMed
"Every time I stand with my hand over my heart, looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that's what I think about," he said. "And in many cases it brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed, not just those in the military, but for that matter those throughout the civil rights movements of the '60s ... and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it's not. We still have a long way to go.
"But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution."
Many of Brees' current and former teammates vehemently disagreed with his remarks:
Malcolm Jenkins @MalcolmJenkins
I recorded a few videos when thinking of how to respond to Drew Brees, I don’t take any of it back-I meant what I said-I removed the 1st video because I knew it be more about the headlines. I want people to understand how those of us struggling with what’s going on feel https://t.co/T054qt0YEz
Other current or former teammates supported him:
Marcus Davenport @MarcusJD84
Drew wasn’t talking about the current protest, the riots or really anything besides HIS feelings on kneeling during the National Anthem.He even explained what they were, the basis and that he actually stands with us. Do we have to entirely agree with him, no. https://t.co/KEkzqYj8HR
And Cam Jordan tweeted "Be a better ally..." and later told ESPN's Josina Anderson, "The basic feeling is I can't nor won't make any excuses for Drew, (but) until I talk to him I will withhold (further comment), but accountability and unity is the basic principle of the TEAM."
Other figures around the sports world also chimed in, including LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers:
It's very rare to see NFL players openly criticize the quarterback of their team, especially one with the pedigree and longevity of Brees. But his comments, at a time when protests have broken out around the nation in defiance of the disproportionate police brutality black communities face, angered many of his teammates.
That's a divide that Brees will not just have to repair within the locker room, but also within his community. According to Bryn Stole of The Advocate, a pocket of protesters in New Orleans on Wednesday were heard chanting "F--k Drew Brees."