Haslams see Cleveland Browns, NFL as 'great unifiers of people'

CLEVELAND -- President Donald Trump’s tersely worded comments at an Alabama rally Friday night about athletes who kneel during the National Anthem, the rescinding of an invitation to the Golden State Warriors to visit The White House to celebrate their 2017 NBA Championship and incendiary tweets about patriotism have drawn criticism from across the National Football League.

Prior to today’s game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam released a statement regarding the President’s comments and praising the NFL’s abilities to bring diverse fan bases together for a common goal.

“We view our organization, our league and our players as great unifiers of people,” the statement read. “Our players, just like so many others across our league, have been honest and thoughtful with their attempt to bring awareness to the issues of inequality and social injustice.

“We were incredibly moved by the meaningful and powerful dialogue they initiated within our organization when they spoke of their intent to unify and not be disrespectful while using familiar and important terms like one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Several Browns players took a knee, while others put their hands on the shoulder pads of their kneeling teammates in a show of support during the National Anthem prior to their Monday Night Football preseason game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 21.

Wide receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis, defensive backs Jamar Taylor and Najee Murray, running backs Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson Jr. and Terrence Magee, linebacker Christian Kirksey, rookie safety Jabrill Peppers and tight end Seth DeValve huddled in a circle behind their teammates on the sideline, knelt and held hands during the National Anthem.

Quarterback DeShone Kizer, offensive lineman Shon Coleman, defensive back Jason McCourty and punter Britton Colquitt expressed their support by placing their hands on the shoulders of their teammates, the same sign of support that has been seen around the NFL since the start of the preseason.

It was the first time since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested during the National Anthem in August of 2016 that any Browns player either sat or knelt during its playing prior to a game.

“Their intent is to create positive and unifying change, and that was demonstrated well by the unity they led prior to our home opener,” the Haslams said. “They have continued to prove this dedication to unite diverse members of our community throughout this past month by establishing direct conversation with the Cleveland Police Department and creating a plan to work together in our neighborhoods. We are also proud of their many other significant efforts in our city throughout the year that are done quietly to improve the lives of others.”

Following the largest National Anthem protest in the NFL, the Browns came under intense scrutiny from the union representing the Cleveland Police Department.

In fact, there was so much backlash that union president Steve Loomis said Cleveland police officers would not hold the flag at the Browns’ home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 10.

However, after meaningful discussion with city officials, Browns players joined members of the Cleveland Police Department and United States military men and women in running out of the tunnel and standing side by side during the National Anthem prior to kickoff.

“We must not let misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the President, or anyone else, deter us from our efforts to unify,” the Haslams said.

“Our stance in support of the liberties of peaceful, personal expression afforded to our players and all Americans will remain strong, and we will continue to encourage our players to respectfully use their earned platform to inspire positive change in our nation and throughout society.”

© 2017 WKYC-TV


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