New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees continues to walk back recent comments about the George Floyd protests with a new message for President Donald Trump: "We must stop talking about the flag."
In an Instagram post addressed to Trump, Brees late Friday said it's time to start talking about making meaningful changes to the treatment and policing of black communities.
"We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform," Brees said in the post. "We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?"
Brees drew criticism Wednesday after he told Yahoo! Finance that he did not agree with "disrespecting the flag" by kneeling during the national anthem.
The president celebrated Brees' comments and said he is a "big fan" of the quarterback.
"I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag,” Trump said. “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high ... We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart."
Conflating protests against police brutality to protesting the American flag, Trump added that "there are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag.”
“NO KNEELING," he said.
Brees' initial comments were decried as "ignorant," and his later apology was criticized as hollow by many, including former teammate Lamar Louis, who wrote that Brees did not care enough to pick a side in the "fight for justice" because he was "comfortable" within his "own bubble."
Brees apologized for his comments in an Instagram post Thursday after fierce criticism, saying he would do better.
The NFL has been a flashpoint for protests over police violence ever since Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in 2016 during the national anthem before games. Kaepernick has since gone unsigned — and emerged as a leading voice in opposition of police violence.
On Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to players for not listening to their concerns regarding racism sooner.
"We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people," he said in a video statement on Twitter. "We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest."
The president has called out the league and players who kneel, saying at a September 2017 rally that it would be nice if owners would react by saying, "Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out."
At a pre-Superbowl interview last year, Trump said that "a lot of people" in the NFL have thanked him for signing the First Step Act, a bill which promised to institute sweeping changes to the criminal justice system.
Trump said NFL players "haven't been kneeling and they have been respecting the flag and their ratings have been terrific ever since" he signed the legislation.