METAIRIE, La. – Malcolm Jenkins said he felt the dialogue between him and a longtime friend and teammate of New Orleans Saints Drew Brees this summer was “important to the country and important to us.”
Jenkins was one of Brees’ harshest critics after Brees said in June that he “would never agree with those not respecting the flag” by kneeling during the national anthem. But both players insisted they had good talks in the immediate aftermath and the following months. And teammates have praised Brees for his sincere effort to become an ally for the Black community in its fight for racial equality and social justice.
“I feel like Drew and I were friends for 2020 long,” said Jenkins, who rejoined the Saints in free agency this year after starting his career with the team from 2009 to 2013. “And of course the dialogue he and I had to have public, but also private, I think it was important for the country to do and important for us to do. And I think it will continue from that moment onwards. “But what a friendship it is, the willingness for both of us to participate in that dialogue has been cooperative and encouraging.”
Both Brees and Jenkins said during training camp that they believe the team has moved forward in a positive way thanks to the productive dialogue that has taken place since then – through private conversations and discussions with full teams.
“I think if anything, the team is probably closer, because we need to have those tough conversations,” said Jenkins, who spoke to the New Orleans media via video conference on Thursday for the first time since camp began. “Often, those setbacks bring those intimate types of people involved closer together. And I think this is no exception.”
Jenkins, who has spent the past six years with the Philadelphia Eagles, has been one of the most visible activists of sports for social justice as co-founder of the Players Coalition and an analyst for CNN, among other aspirations. And he was very emotional in an Instagram video he posted following Brees ‘remarks in June, saying he was “hurt” by Brees’ remarks and that they were “extremely self-centered.”
“It’s sad because I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re someone I had a lot of respect for. But sometimes you have to shut down the f — up,” Jenkins said in the video he later deleted and replaced with a version that did not include the curse word.
Brees said earlier this month that he and Jenkins were reconciled, calling him a friend and an “ally.”
Brees said it “broke my heart” and was “overwhelming” that his comments made people feel like he did not stand with the Black community for social justice.
“All of our goals are aligned,” Brees said of his teammates. “This is not about me. Our focus as a team and group of leaders is on this season and all the things we can achieve together for social justice.”