The Cleveland Browns voiced a message of unity and equality prior to a Week 1 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the team did things a little differently than Colin Kaepernick.
Prior to kickoff, the Browns aired a 52-second video before the national anthem featuring head coach Hue Jackson and players Joe Thomas, DeShone Kizer, Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey, and Randall Telfer all expressing their thoughts on racial inequality.
A special message on unity and equality from members of the Cleveland Browns. pic.twitter.com/CvyTdgTaIS— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 10, 2017
The conversation for the team began in preseason when 12 Browns players kneeled in prayer during the national anthem. It was the largest group in the NFL to opt not to stand during the anthem since Kaepernick started the trend during preseason in 2016.
Cleveland’s group prayer was also noteworthy because it included tight end Seth DeValve, the first white NFL player to kneel during the anthem.
“We were just praying over the country and praying over things going on,” Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey said after the game. “We did it as respectfully as possible, and we respect everything that happened with things in the military. We respect all of that. We just felt it was the right time for us to do this and say a prayer for this country.”
In the days following the Browns players’ prayer, Cleveland police announced they would not participate in the pregame anthem ceremony on Week 1. Three years ago, Cleveland police took issue with a Browns player wearing a shirt that asked for justice for a pair of police shootings, and demanded an apology from the team.
Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown was also critical of kneeling players — Kaepernick, in particular — and met with Browns players shortly after the preseason game.
While the Browns will be applauded for coming up with an alternative way to communicate concerns about the treatment of people of color, the pre-anthem video wouldn’t have been possible if Kaepernick hadn’t started the conversation.
In the 13 months since the former 49ers quarterback first sat during the anthem, he has been joined by Michael Bennett, Malcolm Jenkins, the 12 Browns players, and many others. Kaepernick began the conversation that resulted in Browns players having the opportunity Sunday to share their thoughts.