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Drew Brees says reaction to his anthem comments was 'crushing'

Sporting News — customerservice@sportingnews.com (Sporting News)

Drew Brees has revealed the personal anguish he felt following the backlash to his original comments on kneeling for the anthem before NFL games.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback was widely criticized by teammates and other players in the NFL back in June when he suggested those who do not stand for the Star-Spangled Banner are "disrespecting the flag."

Brees later apologized for those words and reiterated he knew his remarks were wrong when Donald Trump argued he should not have "taken back" what he said.

MORE: Drew Brees' wife says family received death threats over comments

The Saints quarterback spoke to the media on Saturday and, prior to answering questions, he once again addressed his original comments about the anthem and the aftermath.

"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," Brees said. "It was crushing. 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."

Kneeling during the anthem is expected to be more prevalent in the 2020 campaign following the death of George Floyd in police custody in May.

MORE: Here's a complete list of NFL players opting out of the 2020 season

NBA players have been kneeling and wearing "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts prior to their games in Orlando this week and, shortly after Brees' comments in June, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the league was "wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting" previously.

Brees clarified he would be standing 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," Brees added. "I acknowledge and respect anyone who chooses to kneel or any other form of peaceful protest to bring attention to the social injustices and systemic racism that so many have endured and continue to endure in our country. I will always support and advocate for the black and brown communities in the fight for social injustices. Always."