Malcolm Jenkins: Saints 'Closer' After Discussing Drew Brees Anthem Comments

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 20, 2020

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) talks with New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) during an NFL football training camp practice in Metairie, La., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. (David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP, Pool)
David Grunfeld/Associated Press

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees promised to do better after conflating kneeling in protest of systemic racism during the national anthem with disrespecting the U.S. flag in early June.  

It was the second apology Brees issued following an interview with Daniel Roberts of Yahoo Finance and one in which he vowed to become an ally in the movement towards social justice. 

The contrition was needed after the quarterback's comments rattled players in his own locker room. Two months later, as training camp gets underway, Brees' continued discussions with his teammates have allowed the roster to educate each other and grow closer.

"I think if anything, the team is probably closer for it, because we've had to have those tough conversations," Malcolm Jenkins told reporters on Thursday. "Oftentimes those adversities or those intimate kind of engagements bring people closer. And I think this is no exception."

Jenkins was an immediate and outspoken critic of Brees', taking to Instagram to display his shock at someone he "considered a friend" and "looked up to." The veteran safety has participated in protests during the national anthem by raising his fist and has taken his demands to end systemic racism and police brutality to both Capitol Hill and the opinion section of The Washington Post.

The 32-year-old began his career in New Orleans before spending six years with the Philadelphia Eagles. He signed a four-year, $32 million deal to return to the Saints in March. Conflict sprung up in the locker room before the season even started. 

"I feel like me and Drew were friends long before 2020 and obviously the dialogue that he and I had to have publicly, but also privately, I think was important for the country to do and important for us to do," Jenkins said. "And I think that even moving past that moment, it's gonna be ongoing. But as far as a friendship, the willingness for both of us to engage in that dialogue has been cooperative and been encouraging."

For his part, Brees has continued to own up to his comments and stand behind his teammates and activists fighting for a more just future. 

"All of our goals are aligned," Brees previously told reporters during camp. "This is not about me. Our focus as a team and group of leaders is on this season and all the things we can accomplish together for social justice."