BEREA, Ohio -- Protests of the National Anthem have become prevalent in the National Football League over the last year since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat and later, knelt during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner.
Kaepernick chose not to stand for the National Anthem in order to bring attention to police brutality and social injustice in America, and was joined throughout the season by players across the league, but no one on the Cleveland Browns has joined the pre-game protests.
“I think everybody has a right to, and I get it, but the National Anthem means a lot to myself personally, the organization and our football team,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “I haven’t really talked to our team about it. I would hope that we don’t have those issues.”
During the first week of the preseason, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat on a cooler while eating a banana on the sideline while the National Anthem played, and in recognition of the violence between white nationalist demonstrators and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett chose not to stand.
Last season, Seahawks players were outspoken in their support of Kaepernick, and prior to one of their games, they locked arms in unity as the National Anthem played. Seattle coach Pete Carroll showed solidarity by locking arms with his players during the pre-game demonstration.
On Saturday, white nationalists, including members of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi organizations, protested the removal of a statue honoring Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, and the “Unite the Right” rally took a violent turn when they clashed with counter-protesters.
During the clash of protesters, a 20-year old male from Maumee, Ohio, James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car through a crowd of people, killing one, 32-year old paralegal Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others.
According to multiple reports, Fields showed a heightened interest in the Nazi campaign of World War II while in high school.
It is Jackson’s hope that when the Browns next take the field for a Monday Night Football appearance against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 21, his players choose to stand and honor military men and women, past and present, just as they did with a post-practice autograph session for active-duty service members and their families at training camp this year.
“I understand there is a lot going on in the world,” Jackson said. “I like to just keep it here. What we deal with, we try to deal with as a team in our closed environment. We talk about things. Hopefully, that won’t happen.
“I can’t tell you it won’t happen, but I just know our guys, and I don’t think that is where our focus is. We hope the things that are going on in the world get ironed out, but I know right now, we are doing everything we can to get our football team better.”