Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apologized on Instagram on Thursday after drawing criticism for saying athletes who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice are disrespectful.

What he's saying: "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."

  • "I stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racial injustice and police brutality and support the creation of real policy change that will make a difference."

Brees's comments come as thousands in the country are protesting the death last week of George Floyd while in police custody.

Background per Axios' Ursula Perano: Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the national anthem in August 2016, after several unarmed black people had been shot by police over the summer, to protest racial inequality.

  • Kaepernick drew national outrage, including from President Trump, for his gesture.
    • He opted out of his contract in 2017 after the San Francisco 49ers planned to release him following the controversy.
    • He then became a free agent, but was not signed by another team.
    • He alleged in 2018 that NFL team owners colluded to keep him off rosters due to his politics.

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