Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson clarifies comments regarding national anthem protests

BEREA, OHIO - As his team prepared to wrap up training camp, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson found himself the center of attention -- and not necessarily for the right reasons.

Earlier this week, Jackson was asked for his thoughts regarding the national anthem protests that have become increasingly prevalent in the NFL over the past year. 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, Jackson's answer made national headlines when Fox Sports 1 host Shannon Sharpe took the second-year Browns coach to task for his comments. Speaking on his daily debate show, "Undefeated," Sharpe referred to Jackson as a "clown" for saying he hoped his players wouldn't protest the anthem.

Sharpe's animated rant caught the attention of many, including former Cleveland lineman Fritz Pollard, who told Tom Reed of The Athletic that the Hall of Fame tight end owed Jackson an apology. Asked on Thursday about Pollard's thoughts, Jackson came prepared, issuing a more than two-minute statement clarifying his original comments.

You can read Jackson's full statement below, via Browns.com:

“I’d like to share a couple thoughts on my recent post practice comments when I was asked about how I’d feel about a Browns player protesting during the national anthem…First off, our players know that I have a great appreciation for every single one of them. I respect and support their right for peaceful protest; a right afforded to every American. 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. Our team, along with every other team in the NFL and every other sport at every level should reflect what is good about America – our diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion as well as equal opportunity. There are issues in our country right now that are far bigger than football and I understand and respect that these issues impact our players and will compel them to react in many different ways.
 
My personal feeling is that over the last season, we’ve seen players come under unfair scrutiny for protesting during the anthem, mainly because the focus has become on whether or not a player is being disrespectful to the flag or military and not on the issue and cause attempting to be addressed by the protest. The intent of my comments was not to discourage individual expression from our players in light of a cause that moves them to personal expression. I’m disheartened that I gave anyone that impression because I did not speak with enough clarity. However, my words did reflect my concern—that I would express to any player—about protesting during the anthem. There are many effective ways athletes can utilize their platform if they so desire, but I would respect any individual decision as ultimately it would be the player’s choice after much thoughtful dialogue.
 
“As an American, I am of the belief that our unique strength is in the diversity of our nation. As an NFL Head Coach, I strive to have this same belief reflected in how I lead and value every player on our football team, as well as every individual within our organization. My actions will continue to mirror these beliefs both personally and professionally in a manner that serves to better us as a people and as a country.’”

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