BEREA, Ohio– Weeks later, controversy is still swirling around a group of Browns players who knelt during the national anthem.
A dozen players gathered to pray before their preseason game against the New York Giants on Aug. 21. It was the largest group of NFL players to not stand during the anthem since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started his protest a year ago.
For the following two games, all members of the Browns stood for the anthem with some linking arms in solidarity.
But their previous actions divided fans, and angered the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association and ILA Local 1975, representing the city’s dispatchers, EMTs and paramedics.
On Thursday, the presidents for the two unions told FOX 8 News they would not participate in pregame festivities for Cleveland’s home opener. They said the city’s safety forces were asked to hold the flag on the field, but declined because they felt the players’ actions were disrespectful.
Browns head coach Hue Jackson was asked about the reaction from Cleveland police and paramedics.
“I respect that. I have great respect for our police, and we have great relationships with them. They are entitled to say what they feel, just like I have always said about our players. They are entitled to say what they feel, and I respect that. I get it,” Jackson told reporters on Monday.
Previously, Jackson said the players respect the flag and have a strong brotherhood with each other.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams also weighed in on the issue on Sunday.
“As law enforcement officers, we took an oath to serve and to protect. We protect the rights of all citizens to express their views as protected by the First Amendment of our constitution, no matter the issue. Our American flag is an important symbol to our great country and we, as officers, will continue to salute it,” Williams said in a letter to Clevelanders.