NBA great Shaquille O’Neal urged the New Orleans Saints last week to stay together in the wake of quarterback Drew Brees’ national anthem comments.
League sources told ESPN and NBC Sports on Monday that O’Neal addressed the Saints in a virtual meeting Thursday. The former NBA star warned the team that the media will “try to divide you.”
“They’re going to try to divide you, just like they divided us with the Lakers! Me and Kobe [Bryant], we had a great thing going, but the media divided our team,” O’Neal said during the Saints’ virtual team meeting. “We could have won five more championships!
“Stay strong. Don’t let the media divide you! Don’t let social media divide you!”
The Pro Basketball Hall of Fame center was booked more than two weeks ago to be a guest speaker for the Saints’ virtual meeting last week. After Brees’ divisive comments regarding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem Wednesday, the subject of the meeting became a forum for the Pro Bowl quarterback to apologize to the team.
O’Neal talked about being in attendance for the Saints’ meeting Thursday on TNT. He didn’t disclose his message to the team, but he did discuss how Saints players accepted Brees’ apology.
“They said, ‘Drew, we know your character. We know you stepped in some stuff that you can’t get out of. But guess what, we want you to do more positive things and less talking.’ And they all said we accept your apology,” O’Neal said.
Brees apologized twice on social media for his comments last week, once on Thursday before the Saints’ meeting and again on Friday. He also stood by his apology Friday night after President Donald Trump criticized the quarterback for changing his stance.
O’Neal and Bryant, who won three straight NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000-02, had numerous arguments through the media over their respective roles on the team. The issues between the duo led to a trade that sent O’Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004 and a long-term extension for Bryant.
Years later, the pair of NBA legends repaired their relationship. When Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January, O’Neal paid his respects to the guard on multiple occasions.