Drew Brees displayed «true leadership» by apologising for his comments on NFL players who protest during the national anthem, according to New Orleans Saints team-mate Demario Davis.
Saints quarterback Brees came under fire on Wednesday for saying he will «never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag» by taking a knee for The Star-Spangled Banner, as former San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick did in 2016 to protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
The death of George Floyd while in police custody last week has brought those issues back to the fore, with protesters and sports stars across the world kneeling in a show of solidarity.
Brees’ response was described as «hurtful» and «insensitive» by New Orleans team-mate Malcolm Jenkins, while NBA superstar LeBron James said kneeling had «nothing to do» with disrespecting the flag.
On Thursday Brees, the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yardage and touchdown passes, posted a lengthy Instagram statement in which he said sorry for comments that «completely missed the mark», and the apology was welcomed by eight-year veteran Davis.
«Hearing Drew’s apology, I think that is a form of true leadership,» he told CNN.
«That’s taking ownership. What we had hoped the first time was that Drew would elaborate more on racism and the sentiments of the black community.
«He admitted he missed the mark. So for him to come out and say, ‘I missed the mark, I’ve been insensitive but what I’m going to start doing is listening and learning from the black community and finding ways that I can help them’… I think that’s a model for all of America because historically, in general, most of America has missed the mark in not hearing the cries.»
Davis, a prominent voice in the Saints locker room, added: «For him to admit that he was wrong and say, ‘I can do better and I will do better’. I think that is leadership at its finest.
«That’s not easy; to come out and admit when you’re wrong. For a long time I feel like a lot of people have taken that posture of not wanting to admit that they’re wrong.
«For him to do that, I think it’s very symbolic of America – especially all the ethnic groups that aren’t people of colour or black people – in understanding, ‘Hey, it’s okay, you might have got it wrong, but don’t get it wrong now’.
«That’s what we have to be as a country. We can’t get it wrong this time.»