This is probably not what Browns Coach Hue Jackson had in mind, when he said that he hoped anthem protests would not happen on his sideline.
Little more than a week after Jackson voiced his hope that the Browns sideline would not play host to anthem protesting spectacle. Eleven players came together to kneel for the national anthem, in what was one of, if not the largest anthem protest displayed yet. Including for the first time, a white player, Seth DeValve, kneeling in protest.
According to USA Today, “Linebackers Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey, running backs Duke Johnson, Terrence Magee and Isaiah Crowell, wide receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis, safeties Jabrill Peppers and Calvin Pryor, tight end Seth DeValve, and cornerback Jamar Taylor constituted the group of kneeling players.
“Several other players — rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, offensive tackle Shon Coleman, punter Britton Colquitt, cornerback Jason McCourty and offensive guard Marcus Martin — stood next to the group and placed an arm on one of a kneeling teammate.”
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said last week that he thought involvement from white players would enhance the effectiveness of the protests. Whether the protests become more effective or not, a white player has joined the protest.
The Browns issued a statement after the massive protest: “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.”
For his part, Coach Jackson attempted to walk back his earlier comments about anthem protests later in the week. Claiming that he might not have best stated the reason why he didn’t want to see anthem protests on his sideline.
“My personal feelings are that over the last season we have seen players come under unfair scrutiny for protesting during the anthem, mainly because the focus has become on whether or not a player is being disrespectful to the flag or military and not on the issue and cause attempting to be addressed by the protest,” Jackson said last Thursday. “The intent of my comments was not to discourage individual expression from our players in light of a cause that moves them to personal expression. I’m disheartened that I gave anyone that impression because I did not speak with enough clarity.
“However, my words did reflect my concern that I would express to any player about protesting during the anthem.”
The Browns protest took place on Monday Night Football, a huge stage, even in the preseason. Moreover they were playing the New York Giants, one of the two teams representing the largest media market in the country. While it’s not clear at this point that the players chose to stage this relatively large protest specifically for that reason. It would also be naïve to rule that consideration out.