The New Orleans Saints quarterback, who has long been a passionate supporter of the military, stressed that he has no issue with Kaepernick’s desire to speak out against racial injustice. He just has an issue with the San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s method of protest. Brees said the American flag is “sacred.”
“I disagree. I wholeheartedly disagree,” Brees told ESPN. “Not that he wants to speak out about a very important issue. No, he can speak out about a very important issue. But there’s plenty of other ways that you can do that in a peaceful manner that doesn’t involve being disrespectful to the American flag.
“The great thing about this country is that we have the freedoms that allow you to speak out openly about any issue. So I’m not commenting on the issue itself because any person has the right to speak out on any issue they want. That’s the great thing about being an American. But the American flag is what represents those freedoms. It represents the very freedom that Colin Kaepernick gets the opportunity to exercise by speaking out his opinion in a peaceful manner about that issue. …
“Like, it’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.”
Both of Brees’ grandfathers served in World War II, one in the Marines in Okinawa and the other in the Army in India.
“Listen, if I chose to speak out on every issue that I have an opinion about, that’s all I’d do all day. I’d probably have a hundred Twitter posts a day. But this one …,” Brees said without completing his thought.
“I’ve been on five USO trips, so I’ve had a chance to meet and talk with a lot of military personnel. I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the things that they go through. Also having family that have served and sitting around and listening to my grandfather talk about World War II, so maybe that gives me a heightened level of appreciation for them,” Brees said. “But when I look at that flag, I think about them too. I think about a lot of things. Like when I stand and listen to the national anthem with my hand over my heart, there is emotions that well up inside of me.
“Like, I could shed a tear every time the national anthem plays if I would allow myself because it’s that powerful.”
Other Saints players spoke of seeing the Kaepernick debate from both sides.
“I respect his decision to stand up for how he feels, but I don’t think you do it in that manner. I think you stand up for the national anthem,” Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “It’s bigger than just what’s going on around our country. You’ve got people fighting for our lives, fighting for our country every day. And I think there’s other ways that you can handle it.
“But that being said, he can do what he wants. And it makes a statement. I mean, everybody’s talking about it, obviously, now. And I think that’s the point.”
Coach Sean Payton took a pass when asked to weigh in and said his focus is on preparing his team for the season.
“Honestly, we have a lot more important things that we’re working on right here in our building,” Payton said.