On Wednesday, citing two grandfathers who fought in World War II, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said that even in wake of the murder of African American George Floyd by Minneapolis police, he opposed any player kneeling during the pregame national anthem.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said.

He was immediately ripped by teammates, opponents, other athletes, entertainers and even plenty of fans. By Thursday, Brees apologized.

“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country,” Brees wrote in a statement released on social media. “They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy. Instead, those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy.”

It’s the latest sign that while 2016 wasn’t that long ago … it sure feels that way.

The NFL was caught flatfooted when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee to protest social injustice and police brutality. The league never found a coherent strategy to handle it, became an easy applause line for Donald Trump and lost fans in the fallout.

Now here comes the return of its worst (and most unresolved) nightmare. Only this time, with seemingly different rules of engagement.

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