The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 during the preseason. So are the Cleveland Browns. In other words, it doesn’t really mean anything.
But sometimes actions speak louder than words, and during yesterday’s preseason game against the Giants, a large number of Browns players took action in participating in silent protest during the pre-game rendition of the national anthem.
According to ESPN’s Pat McManamon, 11 players, including tight end Seth DeValve, who is white, took a knee in a circle amongst one another, while several other players lent support of a hand upon the kneeling players’ shoulders.
Punter Britton Colquitt, also white, was among the latter group demonstrating support for his teammates, while also holding his hand on his heart as the traditional civilian response to the national anthem.
Last week, Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson, referring to potential protests during the anthem, said to reporters, “I would hope that we don’t have those issues”. Later in the week, he walked back those remarks a bit, saying in part, “I respect and support their right for peaceful protest; a right afforded to every American”.
Naturally, he was asked to address his players’ actions after the game, given that nearly 18 percent of his roster (including those standing around the circle of kneeling players) participated in or demonstrated support for the silent protest.
“As I said two days ago, we respect our players. We respect the flag”, Jackson told reporters. “Those guys came to me before they ever made a decision to do it. That is the way we feel about it, and we have talked about this. I said at some point in time, they may [protest], and they have. I won’t know about the next game until it happens. But again, this was tonight and we will move on from there”.
The Browns franchise as a whole also offered a response:
“As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country’s National Anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad. We feel it’s important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country including the freedom of personal expression”.
Among those players who knelt were Jamie Collins, rookie Jabrill Peppers, Isaiah Crowell, Christian Kirksey, and Kenny Britt. Jason McCourty and DeShone Kizer also showed their support to their teammates outside the circle.