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Cleveland Browns players kneel during national anthem

A number of Browns players kneeled in prayer during the anthem Monday night.

New York Giants v Cleveland Browns Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Twelve Cleveland Browns players kneeled in prayer together during the national anthem before a preseason game against the New York Giants Monday night.

Jamie Collins, Seth DeValve, Duke Johnson, Kenny Britt, Ricardo Louis, Terrence Magee, Calvin Pryor, Jamar Taylor, Isaiah Crowell, Jabrill Peppers, and Christian Kirksey were the players who prayed together during the anthem, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. They’re the latest in a string of NFL players to kneel during the anthem as part of a movement started by Colin Kaepernick last year.

DeShone Kizer, Shon Coleman, Britton Colquitt and Jason McCourty could also be seen standing near the group, according to Cleveland.com.

After the game, Kirksey said the players were “praying over their country.”

DeValve, a second year tight end, is the first white NFL player to kneel for the anthem. His participation comes after three white players — Seattle’s Justin Britt, Oakland’s Derek Carr, and Philadelphia’s Chris Long — showed support for teammates’ protests over the weekend.

Britt put his hand on Michael Bennett’s shoulder while the Seahawks lineman sat alone on the bench during the anthem Saturday night. Long could be seen the night before with his arm around Malcolm Jenkins as the cornerback stood with his right fist in the air during the anthem before an Eagles-Bills preseason game. Carr did the same for teammate Khalil Mack but denied it was a protest.

“We’re not protesting. We’re not doing anything like that,” Carr said, via the Los Angeles Times. “What we wanted to do is show all the kids that look up to me, look up to him that white kids, black kids, brown kids, blue, green — it doesn’t matter — can all be loving to each other. And that’s what me and Khalil are. We’re best friends, and we love one another.”

DeValve is the second prominent white athlete to kneel during the national anthem. The first was American soccer star Megan Rapinoe, whose kneeling led USA Soccer to pass a policy requiring players to stand.

After the game, DeValve explained his decision to kneel in prayer while expressing his appreciation for the United States:

“The United States is the greatest country in the world. And it is because it provides opportunities to its citizens that no other country does. The issue is that it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody, and I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee. We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there’s things in this country that still need to change.”

You can see his full comments here:

Kizer didn’t join in the prayer but said he saw “an opportunity with my guys, to support them,” by standing with them during the anthem. He then turned the focus back to winning by saying, “Right now we gotta make sure football is about football, not about making a bunch of statements.”

The Browns released a statement Monday night saying that the team has “profound respect” for the national anthem but supports “the freedom of personal expression.” Here’s the full statement:

“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.”

The protest came after Browns coach Hue Jackson said last week, "I hope that wouldn't happen here." He later clarified his comments in a prepared statement, but he reiterated his “concern” about players from his team sitting.

Jackson said after the game on Monday that the players informed him beforehand about their protest.

Kaepernick’s protest originated last year in response to police shootings of unarmed black men. He’s currently still a free agent despite a track record that indicates he belongs in the league.

You can learn more about Kaepernick’s journey here.