The act of kneeling in protest during the anthem is still subject to laissez-faire oversight, as it is still not technically allowed by league policy. In May 2018, the N.F.L. owners said that players could no longer kneel during the national anthem without being subject to punishment or their teams facing possible financial penalties. Players could, however, stay in the locker room during the pregame ceremony, when the anthem is played.
But after the N.F.L. Players Association filed a grievance challenging the decision, the league never enforced the policy. Last year, several players, including Eric Reid and Kenny Stills, continued to kneel during the playing of the anthem and were not penalized by the league.
On Thursday, Brees walked back his position in a post on Instagram, saying his earlier comments were “insensitive and completely missed the mark.” Brees also asked for forgiveness and said that he took full responsibility for his words.
“I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen,” he wrote.
A few players praised Brees for his apology, including Demario Davis, a Saints linebacker. Brees’s apology “is a form of true leadership and I would say it because that’s taking ownership,” Davis said on CNN. “It’s not easy to come out and admit when you’re wrong.”
Brees’s offensive teammate, Alvin Kamara, a Saints running back, also seemed to welcome the apology. “We talked and I explained to him where he dropped the ball and he understood,” Kamara wrote on Twitter. “But now it’s time for us to be part of the solution, not the problem.”
Many others may not be so quick to forgive or forget.
Trayvon Mullen Jr., a cornerback for the Las Vegas Raiders, wrote on Twitter, “September 21,” the date his team is scheduled to play Brees’s Saints.