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New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees Retires

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

It is the end of an era in New Orleans. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is retiring after 15 years with the team.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Yeah, his kids broke the news on Instagram. Brees is transitioning over to be a game analyst.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: After 15 years on the Saints and 20 years in the NFL...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: Our dad is finally going to retire...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: So he can spend more time with us. Yay.

KING: (Laughter) Underneath, Brees wrote, quote, "I am not retiring from New Orleans." Amie Just covers the Saints for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

AMIE JUST: He was walking into a mess. It was a complete rebuild for the franchise and for the city as well.

MARTINEZ: When Brees joined the Saints in '06, the city was still struggling after Hurricane Katrina. He led the team to the NFC championship that season.

JUST: It was hope - that's what it meant. The first game back in the Superdome was against their rival, the Atlanta Falcons. For those who were there, that game is still a part of them.

KING: And then three years later, Brees and the Saints won their first Super Bowl. Here he is talking to reporters after that game.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DREW BREES: You know, four years ago, whoever thought this would be happening, you know? When 85% of the city was underwater, all of its residents evacuated to places all over the country, most people not knowing if New Orleans would ever come back, we just all looked at one another and said, we're going to rebuild together.

KING: And this became Brees' calling. His foundation has now given more than $45 million to charity.

MARTINEZ: But last summer, he said kneeling during the national anthem was, quote, "disrespecting the flag." His own teammates called his comments hurtful and insensitive. Amie Just says Brees' response was telling.

JUST: It had the potential to undo years and years of trust-building with the city. And there are some fans out there that still are very angry. There was a lot of emotion. You know, it was put your money where your mouth is. Like, if you truly feel remorse for what you said, you need to show up.

KING: Brees talked to his teammates, and then he publicly apologized and promised to work for social justice. He calls his retirement a new beginning.

(SOUNDBITE OF DORENA'S "MY CHILDHOOD FRIEND") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.