Several Cleveland Browns Players Kneel During National Anthem
22 Aug, 2017
Moments before kickoff Monday night, right as the national anthem was about to begin, more than a dozen Browns players gathered near the team’s bench. Most knelt in a circle. Others stood with them. They all prayed.
“We took the opportunity to pray for our country and for the men and women in this country during that time,” tight end Seth DeValve said.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey led the prayer.
“You always have to, with everything you do, you have to have respect first and foremost and we did it in a way, we were saying a prayer,” Kirksey said. “If anyone was wondering what was going on in that circle, we were saying a prayer and we were just praying over the country, praying over things that we were going on, we tried to do it as respectfully as possible and we respect everything that happened with people in the military, we respect all of that. We just felt it was the right time to do that, say a prayer, pray over this country.”
All of it, though was directed towards using their platform as professional athletes to make their voices heard in regards to racial injustice. The anthem protests, made prominent by Colin Kaepernick last season, returned to the spotlight in recent weeks following a white supremacist rally turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia. Most players involved for the Browns downplayed the role Charlottesville played in their decision, citing instead the need to show solidarity and try to create change in regards to racial injustices.
“As professional athletes, in our realm and with our platform, we can invoke a lot of change,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “I think guys are trying to do something to stand on our platform and show people that we want to stand up for this country and show that no matter what your color is, no matter what your background is, whatever, we can all come together and work together to make it a better place.”
“There are a lot of racial and social injustices that are going on in the world right now so we just decided to take a knee and pray for the people who have been affected and pray for the world in general,” safety Jabrill Peppers said.
Monday night’s protest was noteworthy on a number of levels. It involved young players and veterans. It was, to this point, the largest group that knelt together during the national anthem. DeValve became the first white player to kneel.
“The United States is the greatest country in the world,” DeValve said. “It is because it provides opportunities to its citizens that no other country does. The issue is that it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody. And 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.”
DeValve, whose wife is African-American, also had his future family in mind.
“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,” he said.
The decision to protest appears to have materialized organically, starting with a few guys and growing from there.
“Just the other day, guys started to talk about it,” he said. “We should come up with something that we can do and try to get as many people involved to show that we support Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett, other guys around the league that are trying to use their platform and also doing things in the community to try to help and show we all want to try to come together as a nation and do better for ourselves.”
“Couple guys got together, spoke, we all spoke, voiced the ways we want to go about it,” Peppers said. “Ultimately, we thought coming together and praying for our nation was the best outcome that we could have gotten for everyone to come together and express how they feel.”
Quarterback DeShone Kizer didn’t kneel, but he did stand next to his teammates as they prayed.
“I did see an opportunity with my guys to support them on an awesome venture out there where they decided that they were going to pray in a time where this country is kind of all over the place in the sense of human rights and the racist movements,” Kizer said. “I decided it was right for me to join my brothers who decided to take a knee by supporting them when they pray.”
The protest came following a week in which head coach Hue Jackson came under fire for comments he made when asked about his players possibly joining the movement. He clarified those comments later in the week and Kirksey said the players went to Jackson beforehand.
“That’s our head coach,” Kirksey said. “We don’t want to catch anything by surprise, so we felt that it was respectful to let him know what was going on, let him know what the players are going to do before the game.”
“Those guys came to me and talked to me about it before they ever made a decision to do it,” Jackson said. “That is the way we feel about it, and we have talked about this. I said at some point in time, they may, and they have.”
No one was willing to commit to repeating the prayer and protest on Saturday night during the team’s third preseason game in Tampa. One thing was clear, though: this is something that needed to be a start and it was something bigger than football.
“Hopefully it can start to change things,” McCourty said. “That’s the big key. It’s what, two minutes in the national anthem as a protest, but you’d like to see results during our day-to-day lives of people just getting along.”
“We feel as though, at this level, we have a platform with which we can speak on because when we take that helmet off we’re all regular people at the end of the day,” Peppers said. “We have people who’ve been affected it, people who may be affected by it in the future, so we just decided to just take a moment, pray, give God the glory and put it all in his hands.”
“I would say that we have an opportunity to do something with our platform,” DeValve said, “and I think it’s our responsibility to do something with it.”
Mentioned In This Post: