ShareThis Page
NFL

Cleveland Browns players kneel in prayer during national anthem

| Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, 10:47 a.m.
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)
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)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 21: A group of Cleveland Browns players kneel in a circle in protest during the national anthem prior to a preseason game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 21: A group of Cleveland Browns players kneel in a circle in protest during the national anthem prior to a preseason game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND — Kneeling and bowing their heads, the Cleveland Browns bonded over something bigger than football.

More than a dozen players formed a circle on the team's sideline Monday night and prayed in silent protest during the national anthem.

The group, which included veterans, rookies, starters and backups, gathered in front of some water coolers and behind their teammates who stood on the sideline shortly before the Browns hosted the New York Giants.

In the aftermath of the recent racially charged conflict in Charlottesville, the Browns felt compelled to use their platform to make a difference.

"I wanted to take the opportunity with my teammates during the anthem to pray for our country," said tight end Seth DeValve, one of two white players to participate. "And also to draw attention to the fact that we have work to do. And that's why I did what I did."

Linebackers Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey, running backs Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and Terrance Magee, safety Jabrill Peppers, DeValve, wide receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis and defensive back Calvin Pryor dropped to one knee in a huddle. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, offensive tackle Shon Coleman, punter Britton Colquitt, defensive back Jason McCourty and offensive lineman Marcus Martin stood and supported their teammates by putting their hands on their shoulders.

Colquitt also placed a hand over his heart as Kirksey led the group in prayer.

"As professional athletes, in our realm and with our platform, we can invoke a lot of change," said McCourty, who signed with the Browns as a free agent in March after eight seasons in Tennessee. "Guys are trying to do something to stand on our platform and show people that we want to stand up for this country and show that no matter what your color is, no matter what your background is, whatever, we can all come together and work together to make it a better place."

The protest was the largest so far in a social-consciousness movement started last season by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who became a polarizing figure for kneeling during the anthem and is currently out of the NFL. In recent days, Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett and Philadelphia defensive back Malcolm Jenkins also have called attention to what they feel is racial injustice in the country.

Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch also has sat during the national anthem in the preseason, but hasn't elaborated on his reasoning.

Browns coach Hue Jackson, who last week clarified previous remarks that seemed to indicate he was opposed to any demonstrations, stood behind his players.

"We respect our players; we respect the flag," Jackson said following Cleveland's 10-6 win. "Those guys came to me and talked to me about it before they ever made a decision to do it. That is the way we feel about it, and we have talked about this. I said at some point in time, they may, and they have. I won't know about the next game until it happens, but again, this was tonight and we will move on from there."

DeValve, who is in his second season out of Princeton, said he and his teammates have had several discussions about recent racial tensions and other social issues.

He didn't want to offend anyone with his protest.

"It saddens me that in 2017 we have to do something like that," he said. "I personally would like to say that I love this country. I love our national anthem, I'm very grateful to the men and women who have given their lives and give a lot every day to this country and to serve this country, and I want to honor them as much as I can.

"The United States is the greatest country in the world. 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. I myself will be raising children that don't look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.