Friday's HOT MIC

Friday's HOT MIC

More anthem drama in Cleveland. Because of a dozen Browns football players taking a knee during the national anthem in early August, members of the police, firefighters, and EMT unions are refusing to hold a giant flag during pregame ceremonies at the opening game.

Fox8:

There is new fallout from the fierce debate over Cleveland Browns players kneeling during the national anthem.

Cleveland safety forces have backed out of a plan to hold a large flag on the field for the opening game.

A dozen Browns players created a firestorm during a recent preseason game by not standing during the anthem. They created the largest demonstration in the NFL during the anthem since former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick started his protest more than a year ago.

Some police officers and paramedics are doing something about it. The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association and ILA Local 1975, representing the city's dispatchers, EMTs and paramedics, said the Browns came to them weeks ago, and the team wanted city safety forces to hold the flag on the field for the opening game.

EMS union president Daniel Nemeth said it sounded great until a group of Browns players took a knee during the anthem.

"This hit home with me. I am a veteran, an 8-year veteran with the U.S. Marine Corp. So, to disrespect the flag by taking a knee is not something I was going to be a part of," Nemeth said.

We tracked down police union president Steve Loomis out of state at a police convention.

"I’m here at a national police convention, and soon as they hear that I'm from Cleveland, the first question is ‘What about those stinking Browns?'" Loomis said. "So if the ownership of the Browns and the league are going to allow that type of stuff to happen, and then come to us and say,  ‘We want you to help us with the flag,’ that's hypocritical. We're not gonna participate.”

The stadium sits just steps away from city hall. The  FOX 8 I-Team learned the stand being made by the safety forces was discussed by the city's top brass. A city spokesman said the police have been told the Browns will replace the officers, paramedics and firefighters with members of the military.

It's certainly an honor to hold the flag and some military members may see the invitation that way, rather than tacitly supporting an anthem protest. But unless the league office - not team management - puts their foot down and forbids players from disrespecting the flag in this manner, they may be playing in empty stadiums by the end of the year with no one watching on TV.