Browns, Cleveland First Responders Stand Together For Anthem As Sign Of Unity
Browns players, 20 police officers, 10 military personnel, five firefighters and five EMTs "ran out of the tunnel at FirstEnergy Stadium before Sunday’s regular-season opener" against the Steelers in a "show of unity," according to Nate Ulrich of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. The different groups "all stood together for the national anthem and were joined on the sideline" by Browns Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam. Many players "locked arms with each other and with first responders." Browns OT Joe Thomas said, “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.” A video aired before the anthem on the FirstEnergy Stadium scoreboards that showed Browns players talking "about unity, cooperation and equality at a time when the country has been divided." Browns CB Jason McCourty: "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." Ulrich notes Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis last week said that his union members would "not hold the flag during the anthem before the opener because of the silent demonstration by Browns players." Loomis reversed course after CPD Chief Calvin Williams "met with a group of Browns players and the Haslams on Thursday at team headquarters and discussed how everyone could best use their platform to send a message" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 9/11). CBS' Jamie Erdahl called the demonstration a "poignant display of solidarity." Jimmy Haslam indicated that players "engaged him in discussion, including police officers, to discuss how to best unite this community after decisions by Browns players to kneel during the national anthem in the preseason games sparked the threat of boycott by the police union." Erdahl: "But from what we saw, we're a far cry from that here in Cleveland" ("Steelers-Browns," CBS, 9/10).
FINDING A NEW MODEL? NBC's Mike Florio said the Browns have "found a way to harmonize the desire by players to make a statement to express concerns about issues of racial equality, social justice, etc., but also a way that doesn’t disrespect the flag, the military, police, anyone." He said more teams "should do this because that’s the only platform the players had, that minute or two before the national anthem.” NBCSN’s Chris Simms said, “It’ll be an outline for some other teams to follow." He added he did not want to see a "prepared statement by the team, and everyone’s reading the same statement." Simms: "Let some guys talk from their heart and explain what’s actually bothering them respectfully in that way” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 9/11).
STILL NOT OVER: In N.Y., Ken Belson notes the gesture by the Browns "suggested that, for the second season, what NFL players do during the anthem will be a focal point as several continue demonstrations started last year." Seahawks DE Michael Bennett, who last week "accused the police in Las Vegas of excessive force and racially profiling him after mistakenly detaining him in connection with a report of gunfire there, sat during the national anthem before a game against the Packers." Bennett’s brother, Packers TE Martellus Bennett, "raised his right fist during the anthem" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/11). NFL Network's Mike Garafolo said protests during the anthem likely will "get bigger" because of the Michael Bennett incident. Garafolo cited sources as saying that since Bennett started his protest, he has "been in communication" with President Obama, even before his incident in Las Vegas. Garafolo: "This is an issue that is important to Obama. ... And I would expect Obama would show his support at some point or get involved here because this is an issue that is important to him and certainly Michael Bennett" ("NFL GameDay Morning," NFL Network, 9/10).