Shaun Gayle: What happened between Drew Brees and Malcolm Jenkins is part of the issue
Gayle: "In my opinion, I think everyone should kneel. The referees, the coaching staff, even the owners, because this is not a disrespectful thing"
By Cameron Hogwood
Last Updated: 05/06/20 9:01pm
Shaun Gayle believes Drew Brees' comments regarding kneeling for the national anthem underline the lack of understanding white Americans have for the lives of black Americans.
Brees has been subject to widespread criticism after saying he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America" after being questioned over the prospect of players kneeling in protest following the death of George Floyd.
Malcolm Jenkins, who signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency this offseason, issued a heartfelt and strongly-worded response to his team-mate, which partly states: "Drew, unfortunately you're somebody who doesn't understand their privilege. You don't understand the potential you have to actually be an advocate for the people that you call brothers."
Brees has since posted a statement apologising for his remarks, admitting his comments were "insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country."
"What happened between Drew Brees and Malcolm Jenkins is part of the issue," Gayle told Sky Sports News' Richard Graves. "There's a portion of white America that does not see what is happening to black Americans.
"Your team leader in Drew Brees in speaking about this has taken the narrative that this is about the US flag and disrespecting the military, that narrative was pushed by the president and it's not the real narrative as to why Kaepernick started to kneel in the first place.
"I think what it comes down to is when Brees made those statements there was no acknowledgement and in order to have empathy you have to acknowledge something was there. In order to understand what your friend, teammate or brother is going through, you have to be able to see what it is they're dealing with."
Jenkins was not alone in condemning Brees' views, with star Saints receiver Michael Thomas posting "We don't care if you don't agree and whoever else how about that", although did not name Brees specifically.
Saints defensive end Cam Jordan meanwhile tweeted "Be a better ally", the pair and the rest of their team-mates having taken a knee together prior to their matchup with the Miami Dolphins in London back in 2017.
"Unfortunately, things like this can cause an erosion in the locker room," added Gayle. "Two things can happen, either they can try to fight through that, which a lot of the nation will have to because of what is happening.
"Or you take this opportunity and education for people to understand that we're all in this together and social injustice affects everyone whether people believe it or not, because even though you're in the front of the boat, and there are those in the back of the boat, when the boat starts to sink everybody is going to suffer.
"Let's hope this doesn't affect the team-mates for the Saints. In professional sports there is a profound connection."
Saints linebacker Demario Davis has praised Brees for publicly apologising, recognising the 41-year-old's statement as a sign of leadership.
"These are the same individuals that will stand with you when you get married, the ones that you'll be with when your families play together on vacation," continued Gayle. "They're also the ones that at times will carry you to your final resting place when you pass away.
"It's a very special bond and I hope these guys can work it out. Specifically, they have to understand that there is division and they have to solve that by helping white America understand what black America is going through.
"This situation, as horrific as it's been, is a culmination. It's happened over and over again and this is where we find ourselves and we have to do something about that."
The discussion surrounding the national anthem circles back to Colin Kaepernick, who decided to take a knee while with the San Francisco 49ers back in 2016 in peaceful protest against police brutality and racial oppression.
Kaepernick had worked with former Green Beret Nate Boyer in coming up with 'taking a knee', only for President Donald Trump to criticise his actions as 'disrespectful' to the American flag and later encourage teams to fire players that protested.
"If you take a look on Twitter and see all the different posts, some that say that 'it's better to take a knee on the turf than a knee on a black man's neck'," Gayle continued.
"It comes down to understanding that what Colin Kaepernick did, and I have to say this as an ex-athlete, in some ways we were beyond amazed.
"It was a fact that here's a guy who has so much going for him and he was willing to give it all up to help other people and help those who cannot speak for themselves.
"To see how the NFL and the media who had a microphone and how they addressed that, how they pushed him aside and out of the game, which was a travesty, it comes down to this thing going full circle and coming back to the point where the murder of black men and women is what his stance was about."
Kaepernick has since been unable to secure another job in the NFL, while in 2018 his former 49ers team-mate Eric Reid, who had joined him in protesting, filed an official grievance letter alleging team owners and the NFL had colluded to prevent his employment.
"It was real, it was specific and those in charge and those decision-makers should have paid attention, they should have let Kaepernick and his message stay in the game," said Gayle.
"In my opinion, I think everyone should kneel. The referees, the coaching staff, even some of the owners because this is not a disrespectful thing.
"People that are paying attention read and heard about Kaepernick saying he talked to someone in the military. They're the ones who said 'this is how we honour our fallen' so to go by a different narrative as Drew Brees did is a mistake."