Earlier this week, Cleveland Browns tight end Seth DeValve became the first white NFL player to kneel during the national anthem.
On Thursday, his wife, Erica Harris DeValve, defended her husband's decision.
Harris, who is black, penned an essay for the website The Root, in which she explained that she was unaware that her husband would be protesting the anthem until she witnessed it happen. Prior to the Browns' Monday night preseason victory over the New York Giants, DeValve and several of his teammates knelt in prayer in what's become a symbol for bringing attention to racial inequality in America throughout the NFL.
Wrote Mrs. DeValve:
While I understand (and am deeply proud) that Seth is the first white NFL player to kneel during a demonstration like this (on Sept. 4, 2016, Megan Rapinoe, a U.S. women’s soccer player, was the first white professional athlete to do so), I would like to push back against some of the attention he’s been getting that portrays him as some sort of white savior to a movement that was started and has been carried on by black football players for about a year now.The Browns' protest came a week after Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson stated that although he supports his players' right to protest, he hoped that he wouldn't. After coming under fire for his remarks, Jackson issued a more than two-minute long statement in an attempt to clarify his comments.
I am grateful for the widespread support and praise that Seth is getting for his actions, but I would like to offer a humble reminder that a man—a black man—literally lost his job for taking a knee, week after week, on his own. Colin Kaepernick bravely took a step and began a movement throughout the NFL, and he suffered a ridiculous amount of hate and threats and ultimately lost his life’s work in the sport he loves.We should not see Seth’s participation as legitimizing this movement. Rather, he chose to be an ally of his black teammates. To center the focus of Monday’s demonstration solely on Seth is to distract from what our real focus should be: listening to the experiences and the voices of the black people who are using their platforms to continue to bring the issue of racism in the U.S. to the forefront. Seth, as a white individual, never has and never will truly have to feel the weight and burden of racial discrimination and racial oppression. No white person does or will. But all white people should care and take a stand against its prevalence in this country.
On Monday, Jackson said the Browns players who protested prior to the game spoke with him before doing so.
"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.”
Based on Mrs. DeValve's essay, it doesn't sound like the Browns players plan on stopping their protesting anytime soon.