Protest Around National Anthem Grows, As 12 Browns Players Kneel In Circle
Twelve Browns players last night staged the NFL's "largest" protest around the national anthem seen over the past two seasons by "kneeling in a circle on the sideline" before the team's preseason game against the Giants, according to Marla Ridenour of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. Five others players "stood with the group with a hand on a teammate’s shoulder." Browns LB Christian Kirksey: "We were praying over the country, praying over things that are going on and we tried to do it as respectfully as possible. We respect everything that happens with people in the military, we respect all of that. We felt it was the right time to do that." Browns S Jabrill Peppers: "There’s too much hate in the world and we just wanted to come together as men." Ridenour notes the "majority of the participants were African-American," but TE Seth DeValve was among those kneeling and P Britton Colquitt "stood behind them, looking up and pointing to the sky." Ridenour reports DeValve is the "first white NFL player to actively participate" in a protest during the anthem. DeValve: "I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee. We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there’s things in this country that still need to change" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/22). THE ATHLETIC's Tom Reed reports it "didn’t appear any members" of the Giants participated in any protest (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/22).
TEAM GAME: DeValve said that recent events in Charlottesville had "a lot to do with the decision." But DeValve, whose wife is African-American, added, "I myself will be raising children that don't look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now." ESPN.com's Pat McManamon noted Browns coach Hue Jackson this past week "stood by his players' right to make a statement, provided it was peaceful and he had advance notice." Jackson following the game said, "We respect our players; we respect the flag. Those guys came to me and talked to me about it before they ever made a decision" (ESPN.com, 8/21). A team spokesperson said in a statement at halftime, "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" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote, "It was a scene unlike any other we’ve seen so far for the anthem" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/21).
HIJACKING THE NARRATIVE: TNT's Charles Barkley said the media has "hijacked the story" about the on-field demonstrations. He said, "We spend all our time talking about who is standing, who is not standing, who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy. ... We don't talk about the issues anymore, and that is the thing that disappoints me the most. When is last time we talked about why the guys are actually kneeling or holding up their fists?" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 8/22). The Browns' demonstration came after several similar moments over the weekend, including Raiders QB Derek Carr putting a hand on LB Khalil Mack during the anthem. NBC Sports Bay Area's Ray Ratto said, "A lot of people are going to look at Derek Carr and Khalil Mack and go, ‘Oh, this is the NFL showing that players get along.’ Well, that's not what the issue is about. They're going to turn this into what they want the issue to be, that football builds togetherness. No, this is about young men who see a crisis in the country and need to do something within the framework of their jobs, and this is as close as they're going to get unless they want to say something afterward or before” (“The Happy Hour,” NBCS Bay Area, 8/21).
TIME TO END THE SILENCE: Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins, who plans to raise his fist throughout the season, said part of the "frustration from the guys that are speaking up" is that they might be labeled as locker room distractions. He said the "amount of silence from players, coaches, GMs and ownership about these issues" gives off a "false perception to the public that people don't care about it." Jenkins: "We have these conversations daily, and guys in the locker room are frustrated and want to figure out ways to help. This does obviously counter those arguments that these are things guys care about, white and black, and hopefully we can continue to use our platforms to change that and hopefully more guys speak up” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 8/21). ESPN’s Herm Edwards said he would be in favor of teams meeting "as an organization" to talk about "why these players feel like they need to have a silent protest." That would ensure all members of the franchise know "why these guys are not standing up for the national anthem." Edwards: "We are getting this thing all twisted like it’s a football thing. This is no football thing. This is an American thing" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/22).