CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – A dozen Browns players realized that their message on Aug. 21, which saw them kneel in prayer during the national anthem, got lost in the anger from many who found it to be distasteful and disrespectful.
Those same players made their point clear Sunday afternoon prior to their 21-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers: we’re all in this together.
“We love our police department and our military and everything they do for us, and we respect what they do,” head coach Hue Jackson said after the game. “We showed that today, and we showed that we are all together in this.”
After meeting with ownership and local leaders, including Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams, on Thursday at the team’s headquarters in Berea, Ohio to discuss what they could do beyond simply kneeling or protesting to move the conversation of social injustice forward, the Browns ran out of the tunnel joined by Cleveland police, first responders and military members in a sign of unity and solidarity Sunday.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “I think doing that shows the unity that this team is trying to promote between our football team and first responders, military, police and hopefully show a positive effort to move forward and to try to make America a better place for everybody.”
The anthem prayer in August came in the wake of a violent clash in Charlottseville, Virginia and the response from the president of the United States, who refused to immediately rebuke racism until pressured to do so before walking back those comments days later once again in support of the white supremacist protesters.
Unfortunately the players’ aim of that prayer got lost in the perception that they were disrespecting first responders as well as the military by doing it during the anthem.
Sunday, there was no mistaking where they stood.
Before the anthem the Browns played a short video produced by the organization on the FirstEnergy Stadium scoreboards promoting a message of unity, inclusion and equality.
“What we kind of did before the game of everybody coming together is the point we’re trying to make – equality for everyone, everyone being in it together and pointing to the issues and saying if we work together we can fix those things,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “I think that’s what our video was about. That’s what our message was about and the actions that we did.
“Hopefully good can come from it and other people can see it and see what is trying to come across. That’s what kneeling and praying before the game in the preseason, that’s what it was about.”
Moments later the entire team, joined by owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, locked arms with members of Cleveland’s police force, first responders and military members as they stood on the sideline for the anthem.
The presence of the Haslams, who got involved in the conversation internally following the Aug. 21 display about how they could help move the conversation forward in a positive direction, meant a lot within the locker room.
“That’s incredible,” McCourty said. “Just to have them to have a meeting to want to be involved, for a player on the team, when your owner shows just that they’re willing to get involved, I think it means a lot to us. And I know it means a lot to the fans.”
The players are hopeful that they’ve put to rest any perception of disrespect to anyone who serves and shined a positive light on the problems that continue to plague society today.