“Inside the NBA” returned on Thursday amid the news that the league would return to action at the end of July. It also came as protests and rallies for George Floyd continued nationwide and fervor surrounding comments made by Drew Brees were still high.
The crew weighed in on the controversy and the New Orleans quarterback’s apology, with host Ernie Johnson leading the way.
Johnson: ‘You can’t use the flag as a blindfold’
Johnson held nothing back when speaking to people who still can’t grasp why Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in 2016. The issue has nothing to do with the flag, as Brees implied earlier this week with Yahoo Finance.
Johnson began by saying his father was a Marine, and he can see the flag folded in his honor at his funeral, which sits in his mother’s home. His delivery is powerful.
“Here’s the situation. You can fly the flag at your house. You can salute the flag. You can revere the flag. You can respect the flag. And all of those are fine. What you cannot do is use the flag as a blindfold. You can’t use the flag as a blindfold and not see the things you’ve seen with your very eyes that tell you that what’s keeping this country held back is the systemic racism. When you see these things happening you can’t be blinded by that.
“It’s said often, ‘My country, right or wrong.’ But I think that needs to change to, ‘My country, right our wrongs.’ Because the wrongs are there. And it’s up to us to take the initiative and be intentional and for us to say, ‘I’m going to be uncomfortable. I am going to listen to somebody I normally wouldn’t listen to. I’m going to read something I normally wouldn’t read.’
“And I’ll tell you something, I didn’t know anything about Killer Mike until last Friday. And now I’ll never forget him because of what he said and what I learned. That’s what I have to do. I’ve got to have open ears, open eyes and an open heart to hear voices that I wouldn’t normally hear and help me understand.”
Killer Mike is a rapper, both individually and as part of Run the Jewels, and an Atlanta native who spoke at last week’s news conference held by the Atlanta mayor. It was a heartbreaking, real, emotional speech and he later had a conversation on race with Stephen Colbert.
Shaq: I watched Brees apologize to teammates
After many of his teammates joined the chorus speaking out against Brees’ comments, the quarterback apologized to them on a Zoom call Thursday. Shaq said on “Inside the NBA” that he was on that call after having spoken to the Saints about team unity.
Shaq said teammates told Brees they “know your character” and that he “stepped in some things.”
“[They said] we want you to do more positive things and less talking. They all said we accept your apology. I agree with Chuck. He made a mistake.”
After Brees’ initial statements, athletes from all sports ripped the veteran player on the remarks. “He’s beyond lost,” Richard Sherman tweeted. The former Green Beret who advised Kaepernick to kneel also commented.
Brees issued an apology early Thursday morning on Instagram with a stock photo of a white and black hand interlocked. That also wasn’t well received and late Thursday he released a video in which he spoke directly to the camera saying, “I wish I would have laid out what was on my heart.”
“I am sorry, and I will do better, and I will be a part of the solution,” Brees said. “And I am your ally. And I know no words will do that justice.”
That has also drawn mixed responses on Friday. Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore, who is taking another WNBA season off to pursue social justice reform, said these types of conversations are good to have. ESPN’s Maria Taylor had no patience for the apology.
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