(Reuters) – New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees drew the ire of NBA great LeBron James when he said on Wednesday he does not feel NFL players should kneel during the national anthem and called the gesture disrespectful to the American flag.
Brees was asked during an appearance on Yahoo Finance’s On the Move about the possibility of players protesting against racial injustice by kneeling during the anthem when the NFL’s 2020 season kicks off in September.
Colin Kaepernick popularized the gesture of kneeling during pre-game renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 2016 while a member of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. He became a free agent after that season.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees told the program before explaining that when he hears the anthem he thinks of his two grandfathers who served in the military.
“Is everything right with our country right now? No, it’s not. We still have a long away to go. But, I think what you do by standing there and showing respect for the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity.”
Anthem demonstrations have all but disappeared but some feel they could return as the death last week of George Floyd sparked protests across the United States over police brutality.
The comments from Brees, widely regarded as one of the best passers in NFL history, did not sit well with a number of athletes, including three-times NBA champion James.
“WOW MAN!! Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee??” the Los Angeles Lakers forward posted on Twitter.
“Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of Flag of United States and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free.”
James also said his father-in-law fought for the United States and that he asked him questions about it and thanks him all the time.
“He never found Kap peaceful protest offensive because he and I both know what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong! God bless you.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)