June 4 (UPI) -- New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote a lengthy apology Thursday to black Americans, his friends, teammates and the NFL after he made "divisive" comments about players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem.
Asked during an interview Wednesday with Yahoo Finance if he expects NFL players to kneel in protest this season, Brees said he will "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America."
The comment drew immediate backlash from Brees' teammates and other NFL players and sports stars, including LeBron James.
"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," Brees wrote in an Instagram post.
"In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused."
NFL teams, players and the league have made statements in support of Floyd over the past week. Floyd was killed last week while handcuffed and pinned to the ground in Minneapolis. His death has spurred protests throughout the United States and the world.
"In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country," Brees wrote Thursday. "They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy.
"This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character."
Brees, 41, has been in the NFL for 19 seasons. The 13-time Pro Bowl selection, Super Bowl Champion, two-time Offensive Player of the Year and 2004 Comeback Player of the Year won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2006. The honor recognizes a player for excellence on and off the field and those who have had a significant positive impact on their communities.
Brees and his wife, Brittany, have been avid philanthropists throughout his tenure in New Orleans. The couple donated $5 million in March to help deliver meals to needy people in Louisiana during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brees said he supports policy change and stands with the black community in the "fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality."
"I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability," he added. "I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening ... and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness."