While Brees was getting hammered from the likes of LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers, former wide receiver Joe Horn told The Athletic that people like the Los Angeles Lakers superstar should get to know Brees first before making any decision.
“People should not be throwing Drew Brees under the bus, and they definitely need to pump the brakes on labeling him a racist,” Horn said. “I know Drew Brees. Drew has done a lot to help black families and the black community in New Orleans. If Drew Brees didn’t love black families and low-income families he wouldn’t have helped the way he has over the years. People that are criticizing him like LeBron James and other celebrities don’t know him. They need to check his resume.
“I love my race. And I love New Orleans to death. But I know Drew Brees. And Drew is a good person. And until you have walked beside him and gotten to know him, his wife and family, you definitely have to give him a pass on this one and allow Drew a chance to think about what he said and come back and make this right. And I know he will.”
Horn, who pleaded guilty to his role in a health care scam in December, played with Brees in 2006. It was his final year with the Saints.
He was reacting to James’ comments on Twitter which read, “WOW MAN!! Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those.”
Marcus Davenport, who is currently Brees’ teammate, tweeted his defense of the quarterback.
“Drew wasn’t talking about the current protest, the riots or really anything besides HIS feelings on kneeling during the National Anthem,” Davenport wrote. “He even explained what they were, the basis and that he actually stands with us. Do we have to entirely agree with him, no.”
Brees told Yahoo Finance that he would never agree with players protesting during the national anthem.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States,” he said.
Brees likened standing for the national anthem to saluting the military.
“I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So 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, that 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 is 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.”
Brees reiterated his stance later to ESPN, saying that he also respects his teammates and their fight for "racial equality and justice."
"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 told ESPN via text. "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," Brees added. "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 didn’t say what form of protest would be acceptable. Players who have taken a knee to protest racial injustice and police brutality have said it was never about the flag.