Fans sound off on Browns' National Anthem protests

(Photo: Thomas J. Russo, USA TODAY)
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Last Sunday, 22 members of the Cleveland Browns knelt on the sidelines during the National Anthem at Lucas Oil Stadium before their game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Today, they come back to FirstEnergy Stadium for this year's second home game as they face off against the Cincinnati Bengals, and fans are wondering how the nation-wide controversy will play out right here on home terf.

"I think if the Browns concentrate more on playing football than on kneeling, hopefully we have a better chance of winning today," said Dan of Leroy as he tailgated on Sunday. 

It's been a hot-button issue that has largely overshadowed the game itself in recent weeks, as players across the country have chosen to take a knee during the National Anthem to protest racial inequality and injustice in America.

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Several Browns players have participated in such demonstrations since the preseason, when one silent protest prompted the Cleveland Police Union to threaten not to help carry the flag onto the field during the home opener.

An agreement was eventually reached, and Cleveland Police officers were joined by U. S military members to present the flag, while players were still permitted to hold their silent protest.

The issue continues to be divisive among fans, nationally and locally.

"You can protest any day of the week. Just don't do it on a Sunday during your job. I can't protest during my job, and they shouldn't be able to protest during their job," said Kate, a local fan from Sandusky.

"Honestly, that's what people fight for in our country is freedom of speech. It's there right to do it," said Gibb, a tailgater from Mansfield.

President Trump continues to weigh in on Twitter. Just yesterday evening, the President tweeted : 

"Very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow, and always, for the playing of our National Anthem. Respect our Flag and our Country!"

Last week, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said in a statement that was largely supportive of the protesting Browns players:

"We must not let misguided, uninformed & divisive comments from the President or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify."

Videos have surfaces on social media of fans across the country burning their season tickets and jerseys in response to these demonstrations, which many claim are unpatriotic.

"If anybody wants to burn any Browns stuff or season tickets, let me know. I'll come pick them up. I'll save them the gasoline," joked Gibb.

Fans will tune in today to catch the drama on the field, but the real story may end up being what happens before the game on the sidelines.

Still, for many fans, they just want to get back to the game.

"I just feel it's about football right now," said Cozey, from Cleveland. " Let's just go out there and win! Go Browns!"