The Cleveland Browns made a huge statement Sunday during their season opener home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers when they showed solidarity with first responders and military members.
Protest, protest, protest
The show of respect came just three weeks after the Browns made headlines for the largest national anthem protest in the NFL to date. Protests have been ongoing since last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the demonstrations to protest police brutality.
In response to Cleveland’s protest, Cleveland-area police and EMS unions said they wouldn’t hold a field-size American flag during the Brown’s season opener. They said it was a direct response to the protests.
Local EMS union president Daniel Nemeth told WJW-TV: “This hit home with me. I am a veteran, eight-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.”
A complete 180
But on Sunday, there were no protests — only respect and honor for first responders and military members.
When the Browns erupted from their locker room, they were flanked with numerous police officers, medics, firefighters, and military members. And once they lined up on the sideline for pregame festivities, many players stood arm-in-arm with a first responder.
According to WNCX-FM, the decision to take the field with first responders was made last week after team officials met with Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams. They discussed how they could move the dialogue about social justice forward without alienating fans with the controversial national anthem protest.
“We love our police department and our military and everything they do for us, and we respect what they do,” Browns head coach Hue Jackson said after the game. “We showed that today, and we showed that we are all together in this.”
Before the anthem, the team even played a video on the stadium’s scoreboard “promoting a message of unity, inclusion and equality,” WNCX reported.
Now, Browns players just hope they have permanently buried the perception that they dislike and disrespect first responders. The Steelers won the game 21-18.