News & Politics

Cleveland Browns Kneel, Pray During National Anthem

Members of the Cleveland Browns kneel during the national anthem before an NFL preseason football game between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

The Cleveland Browns don’t usually make headlines, but they did this time. Instead of standing during the National Anthem, they opted to pull a “non-offensive” Kaepernick.

They took to their knees like the former San Francisco quarterback — but then they prayed:

“We took the opportunity to pray for our country and for the men and women in this country during that time,” tight end Seth DeValve said.

Linebacker Christian Kirksey led the prayer.

“You always have to, with everything you do, you have to have respect first and foremost and we did it in a way, we were saying a prayer,” Kirksey said. “If anyone was wondering what was going on in that circle, we were saying a prayer and we were just praying over the country, praying over things that we were going on, we tried to do it as respectfully as possible and we respect everything that happened with people in the military, we respect all of that. We just felt it was the right time to do that, say a prayer, pray over this country.”

All of it, though was directed towards using their platform as professional athletes to make their voices heard in regards to racial injustice. The anthem protests, made prominent by Colin Kaepernick last season, returned to the spotlight in recent weeks following a white supremacist rally turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia. Most players involved for the Browns downplayed the role Charlottesville played in their decision, citing instead the need to show solidarity and try to create change in regards to racial injustices.

Seth DeValve is white, which makes him the first white player to kneel. I’m sure he’ll be blasted for some sort of “appropriation.”

I understand the urge for the Browns to kneel and pray. After all, in the last 30 years, they’ve had a total of four winning seasons. Four. Their fans have been doing a lot of praying as well. But instead of praying to not stink, they decided to become a big old distraction by doing it during the National Anthem rather than at any other time. The last thing that team needs is a distraction.

Despite Kirksey’s claim they respect “what happened” with people in the military, I’m not so sure they do. While we veterans did serve to protect free speech in all its forms, we do not view all forms of free speech as respectful. Kneeling and praying during the National Anthem is a step up from Kaepernick, but not much of one.