On Saturday, Drew Brees delivered an opening statement to media to address comments he made back on June 3 that made headlines for weeks after. "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said at the time after being asked about players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. That was seen as a conflation of two issues, which led to criticism from those saying he was missing the point. He put out multiple apologies shortly afterward.
Brees made his most recent comments on the subject during a conference call with local media in prep for the opening of training camp, and said that the public reaction to his comments was heartbreaking.
"Going back to my comment on June 3, to think for a second that New Orleans or the state of Louisiana or the black community would think that I was not standing with them for social justice, that completely broke my heart. It was crushing," he said. "Never ever would I feel that way. I recognize that I missed an opportunity that day. I had an opportunity to talk about and emphasize the social injustices that exist for our black community and our need as a country to support them and to advocate for systemic change. And my lack of awareness in that moment hurt a lot of people."
Brees added that he'll still stand for the anthem this season.
"I will always stand for the flag because of what it means to me and to honor all those who have sacrificed, who have served and died for our country and all those who have struggled to move this country forward," he explained.
Per ESPN, Brees said he'd been having ongoing positive talks with teammates who had been critical of his comments after he made them, with veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins specifically mentioned by name. Brees says that he and his teammates have reconciled, and that "all of our goals are aligned" on and off the field.
Pro Bowl tackle and team captain Terron Armstead said earlier this week that he's "extremely confident" that Brees and the team have squashed potential tension.
"Drew faced everything head-on, and that's all you can ask for," Armstead said. "The best way to move forward is to face everything head-on. Invite any questions, comments or concerns."
Similarly, coach Sean Payton doesn't seem to think it'll be an issue.
"I think the locker room is in good shape," Payton said. "I don't see any need to address anything relative to that. I think the players' focus will be on earning a roster spot and that'll be most important. That'll be the same for the coaches."