The Cleveland Browns stirred controversy before kickoff in the second week of the preseason when almost a dozen players took a knee to protest racial injustice in America.
The Cleveland Browns protest was the largest since former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick starting kneeling to protest the national anthem over a year ago. Reactions to the Cleveland protests were sharp, and the team managed to get their act together by their third preseason game – but the damage was already done. Now, Cleveland police and paramedics are refusing to unveil the American flag at the next Browns game, according to Fox 8 Cleveland.
Weeks before the start of the 2017 season, the Browns approached the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association and a union representing the city’s paramedics and dispatchers. The Browns asked the emergency personnel if they would unveil a giant American flag on the field before the start of an upcoming game. The union representatives happily agreed–until the Browns started kneeling to protest the anthem.
“This hit home with me. I am a veteran, an 8-year veteran with the U.S. Marine Corps. So, to disrespect the flag by taking a knee is not something I was going to be a part of,” explained Daniel Nemeth, the EMS union president.
Police union president Steve Loomis echoed these concerns, stating, “if the ownership of the Browns and the league are going to allow that type of stuff to happen, and then come to us and say, ‘We want you to help us with the flag,’ that’s hypocritical. We’re not gonna participate.”
The city of Cleveland became aware of the stand taken by the city’s first responders and came to the aid of the Browns. A city spokesman explained that members of the military have been tasked with unveiling the flag instead of local police, firefighters, and paramedics.
The Cleveland Browns’ players defended kneeling during the national anthem, claiming that they took the time to pray. “We respect our veterans, respect our military. We’re not protesting against them. We just have our reasons of why we’re doing what we’re doing,” explained linebacker Christian Kirksey, who took part in the demonstration. However, EMS union president Nemeth does not buy the excuse.
“Never really saw it a problem to pray before the game, after the game, during halftime. You told me, and you showed me what your true feelings are,” Nemeth said, explaining that the timing of the Browns’ protest was suspicious, and reveals the true motivations behind the player’s protests.
After generating such massive controversy in response to kneeling during their second preseason game, the Browns’ players were, apparently, warned to stand during the national anthem. All Cleveland players stood during the national anthem before last week’s game against Tampa Bay, although some players linked arms, according to Fox 8 Cleveland.
The National Anthem protests, started by Colin Kaepernick, has spread like a virus through the NFL, and prompted First Responders in Cleveland to refuse to handle the colors for the Browns football team. Is it time for NFL players to take their politics off the field?
Apparently, all the players needed was a pep talk to bring them to their feet. Cleveland Browns legend and one of the greatest NFL players of all time, Jim Brown, scolded the protesting players in the locker room and warned them: “do not disrespect your country, do not disrespect the flag.”
The NFL is harming itself by allowing the protests to occur. With declining viewership and alienating first responders, they certainly aren’t earning back the support of Americans any time soon.