Former North Dakota State All-America offensive lineman Billy Turner says a response by NFL star quarterback Drew Brees to nationwide protests over police brutality was "a crying shame."
Turner, now with the Green Bay Packers, wrote on his Instagram account that "racism of all kinds, like every other behavior we acknowledge as humans, is learned and taught in the infancy of life."
Brees drew strong backlash, including an emotional online video posted by teammate Malcolm Jenkins, when in an interview with Yahoo Finance the New Orleans Saints quarterback said he will "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America."
Brees was referring to the protests in 2016 by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others, who kneeled during the national anthem played prior to games to protest police brutality against minorities.
Inflamed by conservative politcians and media, Kaepernick's form of protest quickly turned into a debate over respect for the U.S. flag instead of one over police brutality. Kaepernick was effectively blackballed from the NFL and hasn't played since that season.
Brees, who has since apologized for his comments, said while he stands "with teammates in their fight against racial injustice, he also stands with my grandfathers, who risked their lives for this country, and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis."
Brees was heavily criticized for missing the point of the protests, which was not criticism of the flag or the military, but of police brutality.
Acknowledging that Brees' grandfathers served in the military, Turner's post pointed out that the U.S. military consists of men and women of many ethnicities and economic backgrounds.
That includes, Turner continued, his own grandfather.
"Some were men of color, like my grandfather who chose to enlist because he wanted to escape the racial pandemic that back then, like today, ravished the country," Turner wrote. "Take the gamble of possibly dying overseas at the hands of a soldier from a different country, who admirably fights for his freedom, to 'live'? Or stay in this very country to be shot, lynched, hosed, or torn to pieces by a dog?"
Turner said Brees' beliefs were built on an ideology that is based on "white dominant morals and values."
He said Brees was likely taught to pay respects to "the United States of White America."
"It appears that Brees, like many others, is blind and oblivious to the true meaning behind the: 'Collin Kaepernick Peaceful Protest style' and what those who kneel truly 'kneel' for. That is a crying shame ..."
Turner ended with a powerful statement.
"Think about having to attempt to change a racist persons mindset just so you, your family, loved ones, and an entire race as a whole can finally take a moment in history to take an immeasurable breath for the first time.
"Some might say it's #impossible but I refuse to let my #faith drown in that negligence."
Turner played for NDSU from 2010-13, when he was a standout left tackle on three national championship teams. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the third round in 2014. He is originally from the Twin Cities.