INDIANAPOLIS (92.3 The Fan) – Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam responded to President Donald Trump’s comments calling on NFL owners to fire players who protest during the national anthem with a strong statement Sunday morning.
“We view our organization, our league and our players as great unifiers of people,” The Haslams said. “Our players, just like so many others across our league, have been honest and thoughtful with their attempt to bring awareness to the issues of inequality and social injustice. We were incredibly moved by the meaningful and powerful dialogue they initiated within our organization when they spoke of their intent to unify and not be disrespectful while using familiar and important terms like one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Their intent is to create positive and unifying change and that was demonstrated well by the unity they led prior to our home opener. They have continued to prove this dedication to unite diverse members of our community throughout this past month by establishing direct conversation with the Cleveland Police Department and creating a plan to work together in our neighborhoods. We are also proud of their many other significant efforts in our city throughout the year that are done quietly to improve the lives of others.
“We must not let misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the President or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify. Our stance in support of the liberties of peaceful, personal expression afforded to our players and all Americans will remain strong, and we will continue to encourage our players to respectfully use their earned platform to inspire positive change in our nation and throughout society.”
A dozen Browns players knelt and prayed during the anthem prior to a preseason game against the Giants on Aug. 21 in response to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in which Trump refused to denounce racism and white supremacists in it’s aftermath.
In response to the backlash received over their actions the players engaged with Cleveland law enforcement officials and they ran out of the tunnel with first responders and members of the military and locked arms with them during the anthem as a sign on unity prior to the regular season opener on Sept. 10.
Friday night at a rally in Alabama Trump said players who kneel during the national anthem are disrespecting the flag and deserve to lose their jobs.
“That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” Trump said.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired,” Trump said to loud applause.
Trump also predicted that any owner who went through with his encouragement would become “the most popular person in this country” — at least for a week.
On Saturday, Trump echoed his stance.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
The Haslams are among 17 ownership groups in addition to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL Players Association to denounce the latest inflammatory statement from the president.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)