I am not the enemy. That was the message from Drew Brees on Thursday as he responded to backlash from his suggestion that NFL players kneeling during the national anthem were "disrespecting" the American flag. "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," the New Orleans Saints quarterback wrote in an Instagram post, per TMZ. "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" and "have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy," Brees wrote. "I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy."
Brees wrote that he condemned years of oppression for black communities and supported "the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality," as well as "the creation of real policy change that will make a difference." He also said he recognized that "we as Americans, including myself, have not done enough to fight for that equality or to truly understand the struggles and plight of the black community." But "I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right," he added. And "I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening." The apology came after numerous teammates criticized Brees' comments. Protesters in New Orleans had chanted "F--- Drew Brees" on Wednesday night, while others burned his jerseys. (Read more Drew Brees stories.)