Drew Brees commented extensively on the protests of the national anthem that dominated the NFL on Sunday in response to President Donald Trump's Friday comments in Alabama that players who protest the anthem should be fired.
Ten Saints players sat during the national anthem, and four more stood with those players in support of the protest.
Brees said the following on the subject in his post-game press conference after the Saints' 34-13 win over the Carolina Panthers.
"I disagree with what the President said and how he said it. I think it's very unbecoming of the office of the President of the United States to talk like that, to degrade people like that, and obviously, he's disappointed a lot of people. As far as the national anthem protest: I've said this before, I'll say it again. … Let me say this first. Do I think that there's inequality in this country? Yes, I do. Do I think that there's racism? Yes, I do. Do I think that there's inequality for women, women in the workplace? I think there's inequality for people of color, minorities, for immigrants, but as it pertains to the national anthem, I will always feel that if you are an American, the national anthem is the opportunity for us all to stand up together, to be unified and to show respect for our country. To show respect for what it stands for, the birth of our nation. There will always be issues with our country, there will always be things that we're battling, and we should all be striving to make those things better. But if the protest becomes that we're going to sometimes kneel or not show respect to the flag of the United States of America, and everything that it symbolizes and everything that it stands for, and everything that our country has been through to get to this point, I do not agree with that. I feel like that is a unifying thing. The national anthem, standing for the national anthem with your hand over your heart is a unifying thing, it should bring us all together and say you know what, "Things are not what they should be, but we will continue to work and strive to make things better, to bring equality to all people, men, women, no matter what your race, creed, religion, it doesn't matter. Equality for all, and if you're an American, then I will always believe that we should be standing and showing respect to our flag with our hand over our heart."
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Q: Did any teammates ask you permission, do you condone the protest by other Saints?
"I acknowledge that there is inequality in this country. I acknowledge the protest, and I will say that they're justified in their reason, but again, I will never agree that it's OK to not show respect to the United States of America during the national anthem. That is the symbol of showing respect to our country. I won't. I don't think that's OK, because of all that we have fought so hard and died and sacrificed so much for us to have the things that we have, to live in the country we live in, to have the freedoms that we have, the very freedom of speech that we're talking about was born from that flag. I feel like the national anthem should be a unifying thing. This is a unifying thing, this is where we can all hold hands, arm in arm, but we should all stand up and show respect, and we show that we're unified and that we will work to make things better. Everyone, regardless of your race, your religion, your creed, man, woman, that you deserve to be respected and you should respect others, and that we should all work to help one another. I understand that there are inequalities in this country that need to be fixed, that need to be worked on, but again, the national anthem is a time for us all to be unified, stand arm in arm, and say we're all going to fight and strive to make things better for everyone."
The New Orleans Saints organization released a statement on Sunday afternoon condemning the …
Q: Can you think of a better way to for the other players to protest?
"That's a good question. No, I'm not sure, but I want my message to be very clear. That I feel like it's a unifying thing for all of us are to stand together as Americans and say things are not the way they should be right now, but we will continue to strive to make them better. It's going to start with everyone respecting each other and working to help others in need. I think we need to start with that, and it will go a long way."
"I'm not sure who was kneeling on our sideline, because I was standing on the sideline and I was locked in on the flag, so I'm not sure what took place."
Q: Can you see yourself addressing this with team leaders?
"Absolutely. These are candid conversations we have a lot. At the lunch table, in the locker room, I have these conversations with many of my teammates. Again, I'm coming in here straight out of the shower, so I'm not sure exactly what happened pregame, because I was locked in. …." Lost the rest in a motor noise.