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Cleveland Browns players refused to stand for anthem. Now Cleveland first responders are firing back.

Cleveland first responders say they won't participate in pre-game ceremonies at Cleveland Browns game over players' national anthem protest. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns made pre-season headlines last month for a non-football related reason: 12 of their players refused to stand for the national anthem during a pre-season game, one of the biggest NFL-related anthem protest to date.

Now, Cleveland-area first responders are firing back.

In the wake of the protest, area-first responders say that if football players don't want to respect America, the American flag and the national anthem then they aren't going to hold a large field-size American flag during the national anthem at the Browns' first game this season.

Local EMS union president Daniel Nemeth explained to WJW-TV: "This hit home with me. I am a veteran, an 8-year veteran with the U.S. Marine Corp. So, to disrespect the flag by taking a knee is not something I was going to be a part of."

Police union president Steve Loomis added: "I’m here at a national police convention, and soon as they hear that I'm from Cleveland, the first question is 'What about those stinking Browns?' So 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."

Despite the unions' refusal to participate in the pre-game ceremonies, Cleveland police public information officer Jennifer Ciaccia told the Huffington Post that officers still may take the field on Sunday.

"The union does not speak for the Division. The Division of Police is in no way boycotting the Browns, nor denying participation in events with our officers," she said.

WJW reports that city officials will replace police officers, EMS and firefighters who chose not to participate with military members.

Football players have been kneeling during the national anthem since last year to protest police brutality. Former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick initiated the protests. Kaepernick is currently an NFL free agent.

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