As Saints quarterback Drew Brees has taken significant criticism this week for equating kneeling during the national anthem with disrespecting the country, not everyone thinks that criticism is fair.
Charles Barkley has spoken out in defense of Brees, saying that while he disagreed with Brees’s statement, he also disagreed with the extent to which Brees was criticized afterward.
“Drew’s original statement, I thought, was insensitive. 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. I never heard a bad word about Drew Brees in my life. 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,” Barkley said on TNT.
“Drew Brees was wrong in his initial statement. But the level of vitriol, anger and things like that, I thought, was overkill. Drew Brees, whatever he said, he talked about 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. For this level of, ‘We’ve got to kill everybody who says something we disagree with,’ I’m never going to go with the mob. I want to make it clear I did not like what he said right away, but the vitriol and animosity and hatred he got for the last 24 hours I thought was overkill.”
Barkley’s colleague Kenny Smith, however, said Brees deserves to be criticized.
“I was very offended by what he said,” Smith said. “I look at it as the definition of what we call 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. Someone who is in the locker room every day. He doesn’t have the same excuse that some other people may have had.”
Brees has apologized twice, although he has not said whether he still holds the view that it’s disrespectful to the country to kneel during the anthem.