METAIRIE, La. — Malcolm Jenkins said he believes the dialogue between him and longtime friend and New Orleans Saints teammate Drew Brees this summer was “important for the country and important for us.”
Jenkins was one of Brees’ harshest critics after Brees said in June that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag” by kneeling during the national anthem. But both players have insisted that they had good conversations in the immediate aftermath and the ensuing 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 me and Drew were friends long before 2020,” said Jenkins, who rejoined the Saints this year in free agency after beginning his career with the team from 2009 to 2013. “And obviously the dialogue that he and I had to have publicly, but also privately, I think was important for the country to do and important for us to do. And I think that even moving past that moment, it’s gonna be ongoing. But as far as a friendship, the willingness for both of us to engage in that dialogue has been cooperative and been encouraging.”
Both Brees and Jenkins have said during training camp that they believe the team has moved forward in a positive way thanks to the productive dialogue that has occurred since then — through private conversations and full-team discussions.
“I think if anything, the team is probably closer for it, because we’ve had to have those tough conversations,” said Jenkins, who spoke with the New Orleans media via videoconference Thursday for the first time since camp started. “Oftentimes those adversities or those intimate kind of engagements bring people closer. And I think this is no exception.”
Jenkins, who spent the past six years with the Philadelphia Eagles, has been one of sports’ most visible activists for social justice as a co-founder of the Players Coalition and an analyst for CNN, among other endeavors. And he was very emotional in an Instagram video that he posted following Brees’ comments in June, saying he was “hurt” by Brees’ comments and that they were “extremely self-centered.”
“It’s unfortunate because I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re somebody who I had a great deal of respect for. But sometimes you should shut the f— up,” Jenkins said in the video that he later deleted and replaced with a version that did not include the curse word.
Brees said earlier this month that he and Jenkins had reconciled, calling him a friend and an “ally.”
Brees said it “broke my heart” and was “crushing” 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 accomplish together for social justice.”