METAIRIE, La. -- After earlier sharing a message of unity on social media, Drew Brees attracted backlash later Wednesday when he reiterated his stance on how he will "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America" during an interview with Yahoo Finance.
They were his first comments in the wake of George Floyd's killing last week.
The star New Orleans Saints quarterback gave a lengthy response to ESPN when asked about the perceived conflict between those two stances -- including the potential divide in his own locker room, where players like Malcolm Jenkins and Demario Davis are among the leaders of the Players Coalition seeking social justice and racial equality.
"I love and respect my teammates and I stand right there with them in regards to fighting for racial equality and justice," Brees said. "I also stand with my grandfathers who risked their lives for this country and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis."
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Words to unite.. A mentor of mine once told me that if you listen closely, the sound of children playing is the same no matter where you are in the world. The laughing, shouting, screaming, giggling... No matter what language you speak, no matter what your race, color, religion... the exact same. At some point we all change... The reasons... Our environment, experiences, education...The voices and influences around us. If you are reading this, you are probably one of those whose voice and influence is very powerful in the life of a young person. So when you ask what difference you can make in this world... It's exactly that. Raise, teach, but most importantly model to young people what it is to love all and respect all. There is a saying in every locker room I have been in... Don't just talk about it, be about it. Acknowledge the problem, and accept the fact that we all have a responsibility to make it better. "Your actions speak so loudly I can't hear what you're saying"
Brees was outspoken in 2016 when he said he supported Colin Kaepernick's desire to speak out against racial injustice, but he disagreed with Kaepernick's method of protest during the national anthem.
He has not wavered from that stance -- though he insisted Wednesday that his actions should represent what kind of a person he is.
"I believe we should all stand for the national anthem and respect our country and all those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms," Brees said via text message. "That includes all those who marched for women's suffrage in the 1920s and all those who marched in the civil rights movements and continue to march for racial equality. All of us ... EVERYONE ... represent that flag. Same way I respect all the citizens of our country ... no matter their race, color, religion.
"And I would ask anyone who has a problem with what I said to look at the way I live my life. Do I come across as someone who is not doing my absolute best to make this world a better place, to bring justice and equality to others, and hope & opportunity to those who don't have it? That's what I meant by actions speak louder than words. ... My ACTIONS speak for themselves."
Brees was referencing his social media post from Wednesday morning, which began with the header, "Words to unite" and talked about the importance of teaching and modeling to children "what it is to love all and respect all."
"There is a saying in every locker room I have been in," Brees wrote. "'Don't just talk about it, be about it.' Acknowledge the problem, and accept the fact that we all have a responsibility to make it better. 'Your actions speak so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.'"
Brees and his wife Brittany have been heavily involved in charitable efforts throughout his 19-year NFL career, including a recent donation of $5 million to help Louisiana during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brees' comments were not specifically addressed by teammates immediately on Wednesday, though receiver Michael Thomas replied with an emoji to a reporter's comment that read, "How can anyone watch George Floyd get murdered and their first response when asked about it is ResPEcC tHe fLAg."
Thomas also retweeted other comments directed toward Brees' statements.
Saints coach Sean Payton offered a passionate stance Tuesday, saying on social media that Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were "murdered not killed" and calling for change in the November elections.
Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Gayle Benson released a lengthy statement Monday, decrying police brutality and announcing the creation of a Social Justice Leadership Coalition within both organizations involving Davis, Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick.