Cleveland police, EMS unions refuse to hold flag at game after Browns players kneel

CLEVELAND-- There is new fallout from the fierce debate over Cleveland Browns players kneeling during the national anthem.

Cleveland safety forces have backed out of a plan to hold a large flag on the field for the opening game.

A dozen Browns players created a firestorm during a recent preseason game by not standing during the anthem. They created the largest demonstration in the NFL during the anthem since former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick started his protest more than a year ago.

Some police officers and paramedics are doing something about it. The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association and ILA Local 1975, representing the city's dispatchers, EMTs and paramedics, said the Browns came to them weeks ago, and the team wanted city safety forces to hold the flag on the field for the opening game.

EMS union president Daniel Nemeth said it sounded great until a group of Browns players took a knee during the anthem.

"This hit home with me. I am a veteran, an 8-year veteran with the U.S. Marine Corps. So, to disrespect the flag by taking a knee is not something I was going to be a part of," Nemeth said.

We tracked down police union president Steve Loomis out of state at a police convention.

"I’m here at a national police convention, and soon as they hear that I'm from Cleveland, the first question is ‘What about those stinking Browns?'" Loomis said. "So if the ownership of the Browns and the league are going to allow that type of stuff to happen, and then come to us and say,  ‘We want you to help us with the flag,’ that's hypocritical. We're not gonna participate.”

The stadium sits just steps away from city hall. The  FOX 8 I-Team learned the stand being made by the safety forces was discussed by the city's top brass. A city spokesman said the police have been told the Browns will replace the officers, paramedics and firefighters with members of the military.

Linebacker Christian Kirksey recently explained the demonstration by saying, “We respect our veterans, respect our military. We're not protesting against them. We just have our reasons of why we're doing what we're doing.”

But Nemeth said, even if players kneel to pray during the anthem, why then?

"Never really saw it a problem to pray before the game, after the game, during  halftime. You told me, and you showed me what your true feelings are."

We repeatedly tried to reach the Browns for comment for this story and we did not hear back.

Earlier during the debate over the demonstration, the Browns issued this statement:

“As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country’s National Anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad. We feel it's important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression.”