CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The FOX 8 I TEAM has learned some Cleveland Police officers will take part in pre-game ceremonies at the Browns home opener this weekend despite an uproar sparked when some players kneeled during the national anthem.
Last week, the I TEAM revealed the police union and the EMS Union pulled out of an offer to hold the American flag on the field. The unions felt the team disrespected the flag before a preseason game when some players took a knee during the anthem. Our story sparked a national firestorm.
On Tuesday, despite the backlash, the Browns said they were still finalizing plans, and they expected to have police officers and members of the military take part in ceremonies.
Cleveland Police spokesperson Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said in an email, " We will have officers participating. I don't have a confirmed list at the moment, so I cannot answer as to if they'll all be on duty or not."
Police Union President Steve Loomis reacted by saying, "We're standing firm in our position right now."
The union has considered a boycott of Browns advertisers if more players kneel.
Loomis added, "Hate to go against your window company, or your car company, or whatever it is, but we will pull the trigger on that."
Meantime, Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene says he no longer wants his deputies working security at Browns games. He says he had been concerned about liability, and then when he saw players kneeling, that angered him so much, he made the decision to pull out.
Greene said, "This isn't an issue about race; this isn't an issue about police; this is an issue about the American flag."
He added, "What's the national anthem? Two minutes? Stand for that two minutes. There are some people that are in wheelchairs that would love to be able to stand for that anthem."
Greene said he made the decision shortly after seeing the players take a knee so that the team would have time to fill the security positions with other officers.
One local businessman was so touched by the sheriff there taking a stand, he left a message offering to make a donation to buy some police equipment. And he broke down as he left that message.
The kneeling by the players is a combination of social protest and praying.
The head of a minority police group called the Black Shield Police Association told the I TEAM how he sees it. Lynn Hampton said about holding the flag, ”Some of my officers are willing to participate...and I would like to build more dialogue."
This weekend, the Cleveland police chief also called for more dialogue. At this point, it seems everyone's already talking.