Cleveland police union backs out of Cleveland Browns opening day festivities; cites anthem protest

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The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association will no longer take part in the Browns' opening day ceremonies on Sept. 10, according to Union President Steve Loomis.

Members of the union had been scheduled to help hold the American flag before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with military members and other law enforcement officers. However, after several members of the team decided to kneel during the national anthem prior to a preseason game, Loomis and the union decided they would no longer participate, along with Cleveland EMS workers.

Loomis told WKYC the breaking point came when they learned Browns management knew of the protest before it would take place but allowed the players to go ahead.

"As a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and the United States Navy, and a 24-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department," Loomis said, "I am not going to participate or work with management that allows their players to disrespect the flag and the national anthem." 

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After some members of the team knelt in prayer before the Aug. 21 game against the New York Giants, all members of the team stood during the anthem in Tampa Bay and Chicago. Loomis claims that kept the union from going further: Had the players knelt again, Loomis says he would've advocated pulling all Cleveland police officers from their duties at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Loomis says he made the Browns aware of the union's plans, claiming the team also sent him a statement saying they were "disappointed" in the officers for not "honoring their commitment" to help hold the flag on opening day.

"I find that completely hypocritical," Loomis said, adding the reaction he has gotten to his decision has been "mostly positive."

When reached for a statement, the Browns had no specific comment on the union's decision. They did re-released the statement they gave when the players originally knelt last month:

As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country's National Anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad. We feel it's important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression.

The initial decision by the players to kneel for the anthem has been met with fierce reactions on both sides. Some organizations have said they will no longer even watch the Browns.