Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal Address Drew Brees' Comments on Kneeling

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2020

STUDIO CITY, CA - JANUARY 25:  Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith speak during the 2018 Brand Jordan NBA All-Star Uniforms & All-Star Rosters Unveiling show on January 25, 2018 at CBS Studios in Studio City, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Inside the NBA crew got together on Thursday night to hold a discussion about the current protests happening around the country and the experiences Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith have had as black men in America.  

One of the topics that came up was New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who caused an uproar Wednesday after saying he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country" when asked how the NFL should handle players potentially kneeling during the national anthem this season, much as Colin Kaepernick did in 2016. 

"It was insensitive, especially during this time," Barkley said of those comments on TNT's broadcast (h/t The Athletic's Clevis Murray). "I thought the negative reaction from every talking head on television and some of his teammates was overkill. I never heard a bad word about Drew Brees in my life. He made a mistake."

O'Neal was on the Saints' team call Thursday and said Brees apologized for his remarks—he also did so publicly on Instagram—and his teammates accepted the apology, though he said they also requested Brees "do more positive things and less talking."

"It made it worse that it was Drew Brees, someone who we cheer for, who has teammates like us, that didn't get us," Smith said on the broadcast (h/t ESPN's Tim Bontemps). "Someone who is in the locker room every day. He doesn't have the same excuse others may have had."

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"Someone we cheered for is using his white privilege to say he couldn't understand what we were going through in that moment," he added. "That was very offensive to me."

Ernie Johnson spoke about his grandfather's military background and his understanding of how people hold the American flag in great reverence. But he added that those same people "cannot use the flag as a blindfold" to avoid acknowledging the issues of systemic racism in the United States.