The recent headlines coming from the Cleveland Browns training camp have some Browns fans spiraling out of control, again. Would to God the issue had anything to do with the actual sport of football, player development, or even what visors the guys are wearing to practice.
Nope, the headlines are about Browns’ owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam publicly saying that they will support their starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield’s statement that he will take a knee during the National Anthem this season. The Haslam’s support extends beyond Mayfield to any player wishing to show his support for the movement to end racial injustice.
The fact that this is still a hotly contended point highlights that, in 2016, when then San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, first knelt on the sidelines he was on to something.
Despite overt attempts to politicize the action, kneeling on the sidelines during the National Anthem is not now, nor ever has been about disrespecting the United States, veterans, the military, the flag, or any of the other imaginary evils it is attributed to representing.
It is true that the protest took on an additional meaning to many NFL players when President Trump repeatedly attacked those who knelt. Saying, among other things, that players who kneel should not be in the country.
Since the protest began, Kaepernick’s gesture has swept the globe uniting athletes in a fight for a cause greater than any sport.
As of now, the NFL has walked back the rules requiring players to stand for the anthem or remain in their locker rooms. The move infuriated those who persist in believing that kneeling is about anything beyond its frequently stated meaning.
One more time for the people in the back. Although the action has expanded to include systemic racism in all forms as well as a disapproval of politicizing and bastardizing its intent, taking a knee began and continues to be a gesture of protest against racial injustice.
In a Zoom call on 8/16, the Haslam’s lamented the fact that they were expecting (and prepared for) backlash because of their public support of Mayfield. Jimmy stressed the fact that what players do in the community should carry more weight than two-minutes of kneeling prior to a game.
As an organization, the Cleveland Browns encourage players to pay attention to what happens across America, research the situations, and act according to their conscience. Head Coach, Kevin Stefanski, says that he encourages players to ‘get in the arena’ and fight racism.
A quick visit to Twitter will confirm the backlash the Haslam’s predicted. Scores of hateful messages from triggered fans are everywhere. These fans would do well to see facts behind protests and listen to the protesters.
As Baker Mayfield said:
“(In my position) I can speak on issues that are just wrong. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. There is a human rights issue that has been going on for a long time, and I believe in that…It’s nothing against military or anybody who served…I completely support military and the people that serve our country for the right reasons and do it for justice.”
Ordinarily, I pay little attention to comments coming out of training camp that are not related to the game or the players and coaches. However, much can be learned from Dee and Jimmy Haslam, Mayfield, Kaepernick and those who are putting human rights above sports. Yet, these lessons can only be absorbed if one is willing to listen.
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