UPDATED 6/5, 11:24 p.m. ET : Following Trump's criticism of Drew Brees' retraction on his original, pre-apology opinion about NFL players kneeling, the New Orleans Saints quarterback took to Instagram on Friday afternoon and addressed the president by doubling-down on his new stance.
"We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities," Brees wrote in the caption. "We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?"
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The president took to Twitter on Friday to share his thoughts on the recent controversy surrounding the Saints quarterback and the debate about national anthem protests. Brees caught heat this week after he declared in a video message he will "never agree" with any person who protests police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. He would go on to apologize for his remarks on social media.
"I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday," Brees wrote on Instagram. "In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused. In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country. They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy."
To no one's surprise, President Trump disapproved of the apology. POTUS tweeted he was a "big fan" of Brees, but said he was wrong to walk back "his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag ... There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!"
...We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2020
The #TakeaKnee movement began in 2016, when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled on the sideline during the pregame national anthem. Contrary to Trump's claims, Kaepernick and other participating athletes were not protesting the flag, but rather the police brutality and racism within law enforcement and the country at large. The debate surrounding that act of peaceful protest has been reiginted over the past week, in wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
Trump has been a vocal critic of athletes who've chosen to protest racial injustices by kneeling during the national anthem. In 2018, he fired off a number of tweets, suggesting NFL players should be suspended without pay if they participate in the #TakeaKnee protests.