NFL Players, Fans Fire Back at Drew Brees After He Says Players Should Stand During National Anthem

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has long been a player who did not agree with fellow sports stars kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Now, one week after the death of George Floyd, in which a police officer appears to kneel on Floyd's neck—leading to Floyd's death, Brees doubled down on his stance.

Brees said in the past he supports athletes using their platforms to speak out against police brutality, but he never supported them kneeling during the national anthem, saying it disrespected the American flag and service members.

During an interview Wednesday with Yahoo Finance, Brees was asked about players potentially kneeling during the national anthem for the upcoming season.

"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees responded.

Highlight: @readdanwrite asks @drewbrees what the star NFL quarterback thinks about "players kneeling again when the NFL season starts."@drewbrees: “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”

Full exchange:

— Yahoo Finance (@YahooFinance) June 3, 2020

Brees said his emotions swell up inside when the anthem is played, and that he thinks of his grandfathers who fought in World War II.

"I envision my two grandfathers who fought for this country during World War II," Brees said. "In many cases, it brings me to tears thinking about all that's 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."

Former NFL Colin Kaepernick in 2016 became the league's face of protesting police brutality when he began kneeling for the national anthem during San Francisco 49ers preseason games that season. Other players quickly followed his lead, and the actions soon became a contentious point between fans and players.

Kaepernick, who said kneeling was a protest to police brutality and not any disrespect to the flag or American veterans, was released prior to the start of the 2016 regular season and has not played in the NFL since then.

Drew Brees
Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints watches on after defeating the Carolina Panthers 42-10m at Bank of America Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Brees' comments on Wednesday come as the nation largely stands in unison to protest Floyd's death last week. There have been protests all over the country, with many of them turning into violent demonstrations in the nation's larger cities.

Brees, who led the Saints to a Super Bowl victory following the 2009 season, is one of the league's all-time passing leaders. He is No. 1 all-time in career passing yards, passing touchdowns, completed passes, passing yards per game and pass completion percentage.

Once Brees' comments were made public, players from around the league, and even his own team, began setting social media on fire. Here is what Saints star receiver Michael Thomas said, and what others have replied.

. @MalcolmJenkins had some strong words for @drewbrees after Drew comes out with his views on knelling during the National Athem. If this doesn’t say it perfectly, idk what does. Forever an Eagle. #BlackLivesMatter

— ⚡️ (@DrewTooSavvy) June 3, 2020

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. Those who stand for nothing fall for anything. When you stand for nothing, you fall for everything.

— 7⃣ Leonard Fournette (@_fournette) June 3, 2020

He don’t know no better.

— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) June 3, 2020

Damn Drew... just damn...

— JUSTIS (@justisdavis1) June 3, 2020

Damn drew! That’s how u feel! Them line backers hits goin “feel” a little different next season🥴. And u know damn well Colin ain’t disrespecting the flag.

— Chancer (@Only1Chancer) June 3, 2020

Damn. Drew Brees just lost his whole team. Smh

— Brandon. (@_coolstory_b) June 3, 2020

Drew Brees couldn't even directly say he understood why Colin protested injustice nor that he understood the anger of many black americans. He just talked about what the flag means to him.

But he posted a black box on instagram like he did somethin. That's the issue.

— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) June 3, 2020