In 2016, Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to raise awareness of police brutality. Now, four years later, after once taking a knee himself, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in an interview on Wednesday that he will never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag.
"I shared a locker room with Drew Brees," said Landon Turner, who played college football at North Carolina. "I witnessed his character. He's a very high character individual, he cares about people and he's passionate and opinionated. That's why I say disappointed because I think he was just misguided and missed the point because of his perspective."
Former N.C. State running back Nyheim Hines said people need to be open-minded.
"I've never talked about race or anything at football so I didn't expect it but it was really a blessing and great," @TheNyNy7 says the @Colts have been talking in meetings this week about what's happening in our society, racial injustice and police brutality pic.twitter.com/utcW1M4vSl— Bridget Condon (@BridgetABC11) June 4, 2020
"Just because of that you shouldn't hate him or anything," Hines, now with the Indianapolis Colts, said of Brees. "Everybody has their own opinions and everybody is not going to see what they want to see or see everything in right or wrong. A lot of people are probably going to hate him for it, but you shouldn't because somebody's views are different; you should hear them out and talk to them."
After much backlash on social media -- including this post from NBA star LeBron James ...
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 https://t.co/pvUWPmh4s8— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 3, 2020
... Brees took to Instagram on Thursday to issue a hasty apology -- one that many athletes, including former UNC linebacker Jake Lawler, think is insincere.
"It's not from him," Lawler said. "He was bullied into submission to make a thrown-together statement and he got a stock image from Google about a black hand and a white hand in unity and clearly that's not what he believes."
Turner chose to take the gesture at face value.
"I accept his apology," Turner said. "I have the benefit of interacting with him on a personal basis, seeing him as a leader as a team. I haven't witnessed him speak in any disingenuous manner, so I don't have any cause to not believe him."
Turner said he doesn't want to single out Brees and thinks a lot of people may misunderstand the point of Kaepernick's protest but said that this situation could be the start to important conversations.
"As disappointing and frustrating as it is, it's also a great opportunity to take the scales off your eyes and check your heart, check others' hearts and have discussions that promote healing," Turner said."
"Then we only matter when we can entertain you. We only matter when you can enjoy us. And as soon as we step out of line we are not your entertainment we are not your system..." @Jakelawler42 full story on #DrewBrees reaction tonight on @ABC11_WTVD pic.twitter.com/aAHXNtxxfp— Bridget Condon (@BridgetABC11) June 4, 2020
Lawler said it's a "moral fight" and that athletes are often unfairly chastised when they speak out about non-sports issues.
"We face blowback from that; we face reprimand from that," Lawler said. "Then we only matter when we can entertain you. We only matter when you can enjoy us. And as soon as we step out of line, we are not your entertainment, we are not your system, we are instigators we're agitators we're thugs, we're rioters and this is unbelievable.
"It should not be a political issue," Lawler added. "This is a moral fight."