What a week it has been for Hue Jackson.
Last Monday, the Cleveland Browns head coach was asked for his thoughts on the increasing number of NFL players who have been kneeling in protest during the national anthem this offseason. And while Jackson stated that "everybody has a right to" protest, he added, "the national anthem means a lot to myself personally, the organization and our football team. I hope -- again I can’t speak, I haven’t really talked to our team about it -- I would hope that we don’t have those issues."
A day later, Hall of Fame tight end of Fox Sports 1 host Shannon Sharpe took Jackson to task for his comments, referring to the second-year Browns coach as a "clown" in a highly animated rant.
On Thursday -- the final day of Browns training camp -- Jackson attempted to clarify his remarks, issuing a more than two-minute long prepared statement to reporters. "I respect and support their right for peaceful protest; a right afforded to every American," Jackson said. "We’ve always made it clear to our players that they should embrace the platform they have as NFL players to improve our community and use their platform in a positive, thoughtful and responsible manner."
On Monday night, several members of the Cleveland roster took Jackson up on his offer, with a group of players kneeling during the national anthem prior to the Browns' preseason game against the New York Giants. In addition to the gathered players, which included running back Duke Johnson, safety Jabrill Peppers, wide receiver Kenny Britt, linebacker Jamie Collins, tight end Seth DeValve, wideout Ricardo Louis, defensive back Najee Murray and cornerback Jamar Taylor, some players -- including rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer -- stood next to their kneeling teammates while placing a hand on their shoulders.
Following the Browns' 10-6 victory, Jackson was asked about his players' decision to kneel, which he claimed they approached him with prior to the game.
"As I said two days ago, we respect our players. We respect the flag. Those guys came to me before they ever made a decision to do it," Jackson said. "That is the way we feel about it, and we have talked about this. I said at some point in time, they may [protest], and they have. I won’t know about the next game until it happens. But again, this was tonight and we will move on from there.”
Whether or not the Browns' protests will continue past Monday night remains to be seen. But at this point, it's clear that the conversation has stretched much further than Jackson anticipated it would have just a week ago.