Report: Shaq urged Saints to stay unified after controversial Brees comments
NEW ORLEANS - Shaquille O'Neal was among the voices calling for unity in the Saints locker room after Drew Brees' polarizing comments about the national anthem last week.
ESPN reports the LSU basketball legend took part in a virtual meeting with the team Thursday, just a day after Brees said in an interview that he would "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag" in response to a question about players kneeling during the anthem. The network cited sources describing Shaq's message to the team.
"They're going to try to divide you, just like they divided us with the Lakers! Me and Kobe, we had a great thing going, but the media divided our team," O'Neal reportedly told players. "We could have won five more championships! Stay strong. Don't let the media divide you! Don't let social media divide you!"
O'Neal was scheduled to attend the meeting as a guest speaker before the controversy reared its head on Wednesday. The NBA hall-of-famer had declined to detail exactly what he said to the team but told TNT that Brees' teammates accepted the apology.
"They said, 'Drew, we know your character. We know you stepped in some stuff that you can't get out of, but guess what: We want you to do more positive things and less talking.' And they all said we accept your apology," O'Neal said.
Brees has apologized for the comments twice publicly, saying "he missed the mark" with his initial response. He doubled down on his apology Friday after President Trump tweeted that Brees "should not have taken back his original stance."
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To @realdonaldtrump Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities. We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when? We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.