The controversy continues after some Cleveland Browns decided to kneel during the National Anthem in a preseason game two weeks ago.
As the Browns prepare for Sunday's season opener at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the biggest questions to be answered will be: What role will Cleveland Police play during pregame festivities?
Members of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association had been scheduled to help hold the American flag before the game, along with military members, and other law enforcement. However, when he heard that the Browns were aware about the protest kneeling before it occurred, Union President Steve Loomis announced that members of the CPPA would not participate.
"As a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and the United States Navy, and a 24-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department," Loomis said, "I am not going to participate or work with management that allows their players to disrespect the flag and the national anthem." Loomis added that had the players protest continued in either of the following preseason games, he would've advocated pulling all Cleveland police officers from their duties at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson responded to the controversy during Monday's practice, telling reporters: "I have great respect for our police and we have great relationships with them. And they're entitled to say what they feel just like I've always said about our players. They're entitled to say what they feel and I respect that. I get it," Jackson said.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams does not seem to side with the stand Loomis and the CPPA are taking. At a Labor Day weekend parade, he told WKYC Channel 3, "The union has its opinion, we have our opinion, and I speak for the Cleveland Division of Police. And the Browns are always going to be a partner of ours, just like the Cavs, Indians, Monsters, and Gladiators."
In a statement put out on Sunday, the Chief added that, "We protect the rights of all citizens to express their views as protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution, no matter the issue."
Both the Cleveland Police and Cleveland Browns tell us they have a strong relationship despite comments from the Union. They've even highlighted pictures of them working together at other events. When asked for details about how police will be involved on Sunday, both sides say we'll have to wait and see.