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Live sports are trickling back into action and there’s more to come. The NFL has said it is preparing to begin its season with fans in the seats. Most of the recent NFL talk, however, has once again centered around the national anthem. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently endured heavy backlash for his comments regarding the American flag and his wife recently said the family received death threats because of what Brees said. Could it be time for sports leagues to stop playing the national anthem before events?

Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in 2016

During the third preseason game of the 2016 NFL season, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice. In the fourth and final preseason, he kneeled during the anthem and continued doing so the remainder of the season.

Kaepernick explained his decision to kneel in an article published on after that preseason game against the Green Bay Packers in August of 2016. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick’s actions drew praise from some, while others said he was disrespecting the flag and the military personnel who served the country. Talk around the league regarding the kneeling grew widespread as others joined Kaepernick. Talk around the league turned to which players were kneeling and the NFL. President Donald Trump went as far as saying the league should fire players who don’t stand during the anthem.

Drew Brees’ comments

After the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck during an arrest, racial tension was high across the country. During an interview with Yahoo! Finance, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees gave his thoughts regarding kneeling during the anthem as it likely will be taking place again this season.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said. “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.”

Brees immediately received backlash, including many different teammates who turned against him. They ripped Brees and called him ignorant. Teammate Malcolm Jenkins posted a video and said Brees was part of the country’s problem. Michael Thomas tweeted, “he don’t know no better.” Even LeBron James lashed out against Brees. Things were tense and things got ugly quickly.

Should the anthem be played before games?

Drew Brees issued an apology the following day for his statement regarding people who disrespect the flag. Some of his teammates accepted the apology, while many others said Brees only apologized because he was pressured from the backlash. Brees will certainly be under scrutiny for the 2020 NFL season.

Brees will be in a tough spot this season. Will he be pressured into kneeling during the national anthem? Will he continue to stand for the anthem, envisioning his grandfathers as he usually does? Either way, he will take some heat.

Does the anthem need to be played before games? Playing the anthem before games is a tradition and a great tribute to those who fought for the country to help give us the freedom to play these sports. It also has given us the freedom to attend concerts and take our kids to the playground, yet no anthem is played before a concert or when our kids head down a slide. Is it necessary? No anthem would lead to no judging of Brees or any other players for taking a stand one way or another. What’s more important: playing the anthem or making sure Brees and his family are free of those death threats?