BEREA, Ohio -- As tensions and divisions continue to rise in America as a result of social inequality, intolerance and the differences in political and personal beliefs, protests of the National Anthem have become more frequent in the National Football League.
One year after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat for and later, knelt during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner, players around the league, namely Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch and Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, continue to sit in protest.
“Everybody has different ways that they would like to go about it. In the locker room, you have just so many different people from so many different places,” Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden said.
“You never really know how people are affected by certain situations. A peaceful protest is something we have the right to do, so I commend anyone that’s doing their thing. They have a lot of reasons to it.”
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Haden feels players could be an agent for unity in America if true changes come about as a result of the protests.
“I think we can,” Haden said. “Like we said, man, it’s a lot of different people in the locker rooms. Locker rooms are one of the places where no matter, you don’t have a choice. You’re just intermingling with a bunch of different people from a bunch of different areas, have a bunch of different beliefs -- political beliefs, religious beliefs -- and we’re all here for a common cause, to win football games.
“If some people feel a certain type of way about certain things, other people might not have that same feeling. As a league, as long as they’re doing peaceful protests, as long as people are not trying to do anything to be disrespectful or anything, I feel like it’s okay.”
Thus far, no member of the Browns has knelt or sat during the National Anthem, and should a player decide to act on his feelings by making a statement prior to kickoff, coach Hue Jackson asks that he or they let him know in advance.
Jackson came under fire nationally for those remarks, but Haden, who said he would not protest the National Anthem, went on the defensive to stand up for his head coach.
“Coach Jackson, he just wants to be informed and he doesn't want to be caught off guard with it, so if people feel that way, go up to him, talk to him and have a conversation,” Haden said. “He's not saying he doesn't want to do it. He just doesn't want to be surprised at a game. That makes so much more about what's going on about the stances that he just wants to be informed.
“I really like Coach Hue. He's a great coach. He's a stand-up dude. He has our backs. Whenever we need anything, he's there for us. I just think people mistook what he was talking about. He just wanted with his players, he wants to know that if we're going to do something, if we have something planned, just to holler at him before we take action.”