Veteran Washington running back Adrian Peterson and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees once shared a huddle and a locker room.
But the former teammates’ views on kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games couldn’t be more different. Especially after the video of the dying moments of Houston native George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, with those since-fired officers now facing murder charges.
Although the former league Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year emphasized that he respects Brees as a person, Peterson, 35, couldn’t disagree more sharply on the quarterback’s controversial stance regarding on-field protests intended to raise awareness about police brutality and social injustice.
This combustible issue has dominated conversations around the league ever since Brees’ widely criticized interview with Yahoo Finance where he said “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” while referencing his older relatives’ military service.
Instead of using his platform to decry racial inequality, Brees came off as insensitive when he shifted the conversation to criticize players who protest by taking a knee during the national anthem, as since-exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick did in 2016, and labeled that action as antipatriotic.
“Once I saw the question that was asked, it was like he diverted and went straight to what he wasn’t going to participate in and what he stood for,” Peterson said Friday at his gym, O Athletik, in the Heights while distributing food packages with his wife, Ashley, and Astros player Alex Bregman to families in need. “I know Drew Brees. He’s not a racist at all, and I have a lot of love for him, but I think this was a situation where he should have thought things out more and tried to look at things in a different view. He made a comment about what he thinks about his grandfather and his great-grandfather going to war.
“My parents had great-grandparents that went to war as well, but when they came back, they still weren’t able to vote. We just didn’t have the same rights. When you look at it from that point of view, we understand where you’re coming from, but we don’t understand where you’re coming from as well for those reasons. We still don’t have equality in the United States. Our people fought as well and played a big role in the victory. I love Drew. I have nothing but respect for him, but I think he should have thought about it a little longer.”
Brees’ comments outraged his teammates, including wide receiver Michael Thomas and safety Malcolm Jenkins, who characterized what he said as unsympathetic and potentially damaging to the Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to raise awareness and prompt action following the deaths of Floyd and other African Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
Brees has twice apologized publicly and privately to try to resolve an issue that could potentially divide the Saints’ locker room and has prompted protesters to curse his name in New Orleans.
“It breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused,” Brees wrote on Instagram. “I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the black community in this movement. I will never know what it’s like to be a black man or raise black children in America, but I will work every day to put myself in those shoes and fight for what is right. I am sick about the way my comments were perceived, but I take full responsibility and accountability.”
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SOURCE: Houston Chronicle, Aaron Wilson