New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has apologised for suggesting that kneeling protests to highlight racial injustice would be “disrespecting the flag” of the United States.
Amid the protests in the US sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody, Brees said in an interview with Yahoo that he would “never agree” with somebody taking a knee during the national anthem – something former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick did in 2016 to protest against police brutality.
Brees faced an angry backlash for his comments, including from some of his own team-mates, with basketball star LeBron James asking: “You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?”
In a post on his official Instagram account, Brees admitted his comments had been “insensitive” and had “completely missed the mark”, and begged forgiveness from those he had offended.
Brees wrote: “I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday.
“In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.
“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country.
“They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.”
The 41-year-old Brees is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, and was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV.
Sixteen-year-old tennis star Coco Gauff delivered a powerful speech at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in her home city of Delray Beach.
Gauff, who beat Venus Williams at Wimbledon last year at the age of 15, urged supporters to do their bit to combat systemic racial injustice in the United States.
Gauff said: “If you are choosing silence, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
“I have spent all week having tough conversations and trying to educate my non-black friends about how they can help the movement.
“I saw a Dr [Martin Luther] King quote that said the silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.”
Aston Villa and England defender Tyrone Mings also joined a protest march in Birmingham on Thursday.
The centre-back posted on Twitter: “Nothing but energy & passion today. I make no apologies for standing up for what I believe in.”
Around 4,000 people took part in the march according to West Midlands Police.