Academy Award-winning writer/director Spike Lee served as a guest speaker on the New Orleans Saints’ virtual team meeting Tuesday, according to multiple reports.
Lee, 63, has directed some of the most well-known and best-reviewed movies on civil rights and race relations in the past 30-plus years, including “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X” and “ BlacKkKlansman” — the last of which earned Lee the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay last year.
It has been a tumultuous week for the Saints and star quarterback Drew Brees, who on June 3 told Yahoo Finance regarding players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality, “(I) will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
Numerous athletes, including Saints teammates Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Thomas and Cameron Jordan, took issue with Brees’ position by quickly weighing in on social media.
Brees’ comments and his teammates’ reactions came as cities across the nation have seen daily protests in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes while making an arrest.
Floyd’s killing — and the large showing of support and activism by athletes — also put increased attention on Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality in 2016. At the time, the then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback would take a knee during the national anthem as a sign of protest.
The issue became a national debate.
Following a wave of backlash for his comments last week, Brees apologized to teammates on a Zoom call the following day. Brees was then called out for his change of position by President Donald Trump, who tweeted, in part, “There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag — NO KNEELING!”
Brees replied to Trump on Twitter, in part, “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.”
On Tuesday, Lee reportedly complimented Brees for his comments to Trump, then spoke for 45 minutes about his experiences with race relations.
On the same virtual meeting during which Brees apologized to teammates last week, basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal was a guest speaker and reportedly told the team not to allow people outside the locker room to divide the players.
—Field Level Media