The NBA legend said, however, that Drew Brees' words were "very insensitive"

By Jason Duaine Hahn
June 05, 2020 03:49 PM
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Charles Barkley doesn't think all of the backlash being directed toward New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is warranted.

This week, Brees came under fire for likening kneeling during the national anthem to "disrespecting the flag."

The 41-year-old was heavily criticized when Yahoo Finance published an interview with him on Wednesday where the former Super Bowl champion said he would "never agree" with taking a knee during the anthem, a protest that Colin Kaepernick started in 2016 to protest police brutality and systemic racism. The comments were rebuked by a number of athletes, including LeBron James and Aaron Rodgers.

The remarks came just over a week after George Floyd, a black man, was killed when a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

While discussing the controversy on a recent episode of Inside the NBA, Barkley said he believes Brees' comments were "insensitive," but the chorus of angered reaction to them is too much.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty; Wesley Hitt/Getty

“It was very insensitive, especially during this time. But I thought the negative reaction from every talking head on television and some of his teammates was overkill," the NBA Hall of Famer said on TNT.

"I never heard a bad word about Drew Brees in my life," Barkley continued. "He made a mistake. But we’ve gotten to the point in society where everybody on social media thinks they are God, judge and jury. Drew Brees made a mistake."

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Some of Brees' own teammates criticized him for the remarks, with wide receiver Michael Thomas saying, "He don’t know no better," and "We don’t care if you don’t agree and whoever else how about that," on Twitter.

“Drew Brees was wrong in his initial statement. But the level of vitriol, anger and things like that, I thought, was overkill," Barkley said. "Drew Brees, whatever he said, he talked about [how] the flag means different things to different people. But I thought the way he was portrayed on television and radio today was not fair at all. Drew Brees has done some amazing things in New Orleans, in his life. I’m not even talking about football. He made a mistake in a statement."

But Barkley's Inside the NBA co-host, Kenny Smith, was "offended" by Brees' comments and said it was evidence of his "white privilege."

"It made it worse that it was Drew Brees, someone who we cheer for, who has teammates like us, that didn’t get us," Smith said during the show. "Someone who is in the locker room every day. He doesn’t have the same excuse that some other people may have had.”

RELATED VIDEO: LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers Call Out Drew Brees After He Says Players Should Stand During Anthem

On Thursday, Brees apologized for the comments, saying, "it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused."

"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," he said in a lengthy Instagram post.

"They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy," Brees continued, in part. "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."

He later doubled down on his apology with a video post, which he captioned, "I’m sorry it has taken this long to act and to participate in a meaningful way but I am your ally in this fight."

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.