Saints head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees weighed in the league-wide protests from NFL players on Sunday as several knelt or sat during the national anthem following President Trump’s remarks about the matter at a rally in Alabama on Friday night.
"Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired!" President Trump said during the rally.
During a post-game conference off the heels of the team’s win against the Panthers, Coach Payton said that he was “proud of everyone of those guys” who chose to sit on the bench during the anthem prior to the start of the game. According to The New Orleans Advocate, ten of the Saints players chose to sit on the bench and four more stood near the group in a show of support.
He went on to say that aside from his personal feelings about the anthem, he was “disappointed” in the comments that Trump made.
“I think we need a little bit more wisdom in that office and that’s being a little blunt, but that is how I feel,” Payton said.
“I want that guy to be one of the smarter guys in the room and it seems like every time he is opening his mouth, it’s something that is dividing our country and not pulling us together,” Payton continued.
Quarterback Drew Brees wasted no time with addressing the matter when he stepped to the podium, commenting before reporters asked the questions.
Brees stated that he “disagreed with what the president said and how he said it.”
“I think it is very unbecoming of the office of the president of the United States to talk like that, to degrade people like that. And obviously he has disappointed a lot of people,” Brees said.
As far as the national anthem, Brees said that he acknowledges the protests and said the players are justified in their reason in choosing not the stand during it.
“Do I think there is inequality in this country? Yes, I do. Do I think there is racism? Yes, I do. I think there is inequality for women, for women in the workplace. I think there is inequality for people of color, for minorities, for immigrants.
However, Brees said that he personally believes that the national anthem is a time to show respect.
“I will always feel that if you’re an American, that the national anthem is the opportunity for us all to stand up together, to be unified and to show respect for our country, to show respect for what it stands for, the birth of our nation,” Brees said.
Brees said that the national anthem is a time that Americans should come together and feel unified.
“The standing for the national anthem and looking at the flag with your hand over your heart is a unifying thing that should bring us all together and say, 'You know what? I know that things are not the way they should be but we will continue to work and strive and make things better,” Brees said.
Brees said that he was not sure of all his teammates who chose to sit during the anthem but said that they talk candidly all the time about their opinions.
"I'll talk to all my guys and we'll be fine," Brees said.
Brees finished his statements by saying that all opinions just start with respect.
"If it could just start with everyone just respecting each other and helping others in need. If we can start with that, we can go a long way," Brees said.