7:41 PM PT -- Drew Brees has just responded to President Trump -- telling POTUS their focus should not be on the flag ... and should be on helping the black community.
Brees posted a note directed at Trump ... saying, "Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been."
He continued, "We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities. We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week."
"We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform."
Brees concluded ... "We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us."
Donald Trump says Drew Brees made a mistake by apologizing for his anti-kneeling comments -- saying, "He should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag."
"OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high..." POTUS said Friday. "We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart."
Of course, Brees said Wednesday he believed when players took knees for the national anthem during NFL games ... they were disrespecting the flag and the military.
Colin Kaepernick and other NFL kneelers have said the demonstration was NOT about disrespecting the military -- and instead, was to shine a spotlight on police brutality and racial injustice in America.
Brees issued not one -- but TWO -- apologies ... after his comments were met with strong criticism from just about every athlete in the country, including his teammates and even LeBron James.
But, Trump says Drew had nothing to be sorry about ... writing, "There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag - NO KNEELING!"
In his written apology ... Drew claimed his comments were "insensitive" and "missed the mark" -- and the New Orleans Saints QB vowed to support the Black Lives Matter movement going forward.
"I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening..." Brees said, "and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness."