'We Can Keep America Great': Browns Lock Arms with Police and Military During Anthem

Cleveland Browns players and Cleveland police run out on the field together before a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns.

After two weeks of controversy, spurred by players who knelt and prayed during the national anthem at a preseason game, the Cleveland Browns locked arms with police and members of the military before Sunday's home opener in a show of unity.

In a departure from the divisiveness that has plagued NFL teams in recent seasons, the Browns made an effort to unify, running out of the tunnel with police and members of the military, and then respectfully standing together during the national anthem. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, as well as Browns management, also stood with the team while a video played of players calling for unity in our nation.

Controversy erupted during an August 21 pregame flag ceremony when twelve Browns players made a show of kneeling and praying during the anthem, the largest demonstration in the NFL since Colin Kaepernick started protesting the flag in the name of racial equality.

“There’s a lot of racial and social injustices in the world that are going on right now,” rookie safety Jabrill Peppers said at the time. “We just decided to take a knee and pray for the people who have been affected and just pray for the world in general.”

The Cleveland Police union had originally told team ownership they would not hold the flag during the first game because of the disrespect shown to their profession.

"It's just ignorant for someone to do that," Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steve Loomis said. "It just defies logic to me. The fact that management was aware of what they planned on doing, that's as offensive as it can get."

He told Cleveland.com that the protest by Browns players disrespected the sacrifices that people make that allow players to enjoy the success they have.

Prior to Sunday's game, multiple sources reported that the Browns would use the pregame ceremony to "express concerns about racial equality in America" and many fans (myself included) groaned at the thought of a political pregame message. Instead, there was a call for unity:

The video featured messages from tackle Joe Thomas, quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebacker Jamie Collins, linebacker Christian Kirksey, Coach Hue Jackson and several others.

"I'm so fortunate to be living in a country like this where we can celebrate all our differences." "We believe in unity, we believe in justice, we believe in freedom.” “Love conquers all, and with that, we can keep America great." Instead of focusing on what divides, players declared messages that every American can—should—agree with.

We believe in "love not only for the red, white, and blue of the fabric that we don on our front porches but love for what it stands for," tight end Randall Telfer concluded.