Drew Brees tells Donald Trump 'this is not about the flag' after president urges 'no kneeling'
Trump earlier told Brees he "should not have taken back his original stance" after Saints QB called those who kneel during anthem "disrespectful"
Last Updated: 06/06/20 7:48am
Drew Brees has urged Donald Trump to "acknowledge the problems" facing the black community, insisting "this is not an issue about the American flag".
On Friday, Trump once again criticised those who kneel during the national anthem - a pose that is being seen at protests against police brutality in cities across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis.
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The US president also said New Orleans Saints quarterback Brees should not be sorry for calling those who kneel during the anthem "disrespectful".
Brees had earlier apologised for saying he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag," adding his words "lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy".
Trump tweeted on Friday that Brees "should not have taken back his original stance," adding: "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!"
In response, Brees sent a message on social media to Trump reading: "Through my ongoing conversations with friends, team-mates, and leaders in the black community, I realise this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been.
"We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.
"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 and prison reform.
"We are at a critical juncture in our nation's history! If not now, then when?
"We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action.
"The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us."
NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick popularised kneeling during the anthem in 2016 while he was on the San Francisco 49ers roster.
Trump was an early critic of the protest, and in 2017 vice president Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game between the 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts when some of the players knelt on the sidelines during the anthem.
Brees' comments have been criticised by several high-profile sports stars, including team-mate Michael Thomas and NBA star LeBron James.
James said kneeling during the anthem "has absolutely nothing to do with the disrespect of [America] and our soldiers", while Thomas - who did not specifically name Brees - posted: "He don't know no better" followed by "we don't care if you don't agree and whoever else how about that".
Trump's comments come after Patrick Mahomes, Saquon Barkley and Michael Thomas were among more than a dozen NFL stars who have united to send a passionate video message to the league about racial inequality.
The 70-second video was released on social media platforms on Thursday night and also includes Odell Beckham Jr, Deshaun Watson, Ezekiel Elliott, Jamal Adams and Stephon Gilmore.
It is followed by their message to the NFL, saying: "We will not be silenced. We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn't take this long to admit."
The NFL posted its own message on Thursday saying they stand with the black community and they know they can and need to do more.