Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson says he respects the players who protest the national anthem and he agrees they have a right to free speech, but he still doesn’t want to see the protesters on his team.
With the NFL’s 2017 preseason underway, several players have already indulged their option to protest during the playing of the national anthem, and according to some reporting, several others are fixing to join them.
However, coach Jackson has no interest in seeing it happen on his sideline.
“I think everybody has a right to do, and I get it, but the national anthem means a lot to myself personally, the organization and our football team,” Jackson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I hope — again I can’t speak, I haven’t really talked to our team about it — I would hope that we don’t have those issues.
“I understand there is a lot going on in the world. I like to just keep it here. What we deal with, we try to deal with as a team in our closed environment,” the coach continued. “We talk about things. Hopefully, that won’t happen. I can’t tell you it won’t happen, but I just know our guys, and I don’t think that is where our focus is.”
The originator of the national anthem protests, former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, declared his free agency at the end of the 2016 season but has thus far remained unsigned despite pledging to end his protest for 2017.
The next preseason game for Cleveland is against the Giants on August 21.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.