New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said Wednesday that NFL players kneeling during the national anthem are "disrespecting" America in comments that drew the ire of teammates responsible for catching his passes.
Since 2016, several pro football players, following the lead of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have been taking a knee during the anthem to protest systemic racism and police brutality.
In an interview with Yahoo! Finance's Dan Roberts, Brees said that silent protest is inappropriate — even in light of social unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer put a knee on his neck, pinning him to the pavement for more than eight minutes.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," said Brees, who has thrown the most touchdown passes in NFL history. Brees is white and 41 years old.
Smh.. Ignorant— Emmanuel Sanders (@ESanders_10) June 3, 2020
Shortly after the interview aired, new Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders tweeted, "Smh.. Ignorant," which is social media shorthand for "shaking my head."
Brees' teammate of four seasons, wide receiver Michael Thomas, also appeared to take aim at his own quarterback.
"He don’t know no better," Thomas tweeted. "We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that."
Sanders, 33, and Thomas, 27, are both black.
He don’t know no better.— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) June 3, 2020
Kaepernick's protest has gained renewed interest following the death of Floyd.
NBA star LeBron James posted a picture of Kaepernick on a knee, next to an image of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin digging his knee into Floyd's neck.
"This is why," James wrote in a caption. "Do you understand NOW!!??!!?? Or is it still blurred to you??"
James also criticized Brees directly on Wednesday.
"WOW MAN!! Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t!" James tweeted. "You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of and our soldiers (men and women) who keep our land free. My father-in-law was one of those."