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Two days ago New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees generated a firestorm of controversy when he said in an interview how he disagreed with anybody kneeling during the national anthem like Colin Kaepernick because it was disrespectful. After a huge backlash, Brees apologized, not once, but twice yesterday. Today, ESPN’s Maria Taylor offered her impassioned voice and she is having none of it. 

Drew Brees’ comments generate a firestorm of controversy

In his 19-year NFL career, Drew Brees has become a role model on and off the field. On the field, he’s won an NFL MVP and a Super Bowl. Off the field, his foundation has contributed millions to a variety of charities. His status as an exemplary player-community leader took a major hit after he made comments this week during a Yahoo Finance interview about player’s kneeling during the national anthem.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country. Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played, and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place.” 

The response from the sports world and beyond was swift and severe. Even the Saints quarterback’s main targets, receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, publicly came out against Brees’ statements on social media.

Brees apologizes twice for his remarks

With so much blowback from his initial comments, Drew Brees issued not one, but two apologies the following day. In his first apology, Brees posted a statement on Instagram. 

“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.”

The apology was received well by some, including Thomas, who said, “I accept it because that’s what we are taught to do as Christians. Now back to the movement! #GeorgeFloyd.”

Brees took to Instagram later in the day where this time he posted a video again offering an apology saying how sorry he was for his words and how they affected so many people. “I’m sorry. I will do better. And I will be part of the solution.”

Maria Taylor offers passionate response to Brees and his comments

In a discussion on “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman, Maria Taylor offered her thoughts on Drew Brees’ comments and subsequent apologies. She said if Brees had empathy in his heart to begin with, he would have never uttered those words.

“If you had been educated and forced to confront the issues…and had empathy in your heart, then you would have known the black experience is not easy, especially when 70 percent of your league is African-American and these are the conversations that you should have had.”

Taylor said she’s tired of listening to people make insensitive comments only to have others explain it away by offering excuses and reasons for those statements. She said Brees’ statement completely ignores the countless deaths of unarmed black people in the streets for years.

“My patience left my body when I saw George Floyd take his last breath,” Taylor said. “So if that didn’t affect you and make you want to reassess how you’re going to address a question that includes racial injustice in our country after you watched that man die in the middle of the street, then something is off.”

Taylor said that Brees, along with others including Buffalo quarterback Jake Fromm, have revealed themselves in recent days, and for the first time, are reaping the consequences of their remarks. 

“For the first time, I feel like I can go on TV and say certain things. For the first time, people feel that they can tweet certain things, and people can be held accountable for the things they are putting on display in public. And I’m not going to apologize for that.”

Maria Taylor

Taylor is right. Since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee four years ago, one group has consistently insisted Kaepernick’s move was disrespectful to the flag, the anthem, and the military, despite the quarterback’s assertions it was strictly a protest of police brutality and social injustice. Until the death of George Floyd, those comments on Kaepernick being disrespectful were largely ignored and dismissed. Not anymore.