BY ARI GILBERG
Browns head coach Hue Jackson said last week he “would hope we don’t have those issues,” when asked for his thoughts on players protesting during the national anthem.
Much to Jackson’s dismay, he had to deal with “those issues” on Monday.
A large group of Browns players knelt behind the team’s bench in a circle during “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to the team’s 10-6 win over the Giants on Monday.
Linebacker Jamie Collins, 2017 first-round pick Jabrill Peppers and wide receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis were among the players who knelt during the anthem.
Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, punter Britton Colquitt, defensive back Jason McCourty and offensive tackle Shon Coleman all stood near the circle of players and each placed a hand on a kneeling teammate as a show of support.
Colquitt is the third white NFL player to show support to players protesting during the anthem.
Eagles defensive end Chris Long previously placed his arm around Malcolm Jenkins, who raised his right hand in a fist, during the anthem prior to the Eagles preseason game on Friday. And later that same night, Seahawks center Justin Britt placed his hand on Michael Bennett’s shoulder while Bennett took a knee prior to the Seahawks preseason game against the Vikings.
The Browns released a statement addressing the protest, per Cleveland.com.
“As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country’s National Anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad. We feel it’s important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression.”
No Giants player was seen protesting the anthem.
Last week Jackson told Cleveland.com he hadn’t addressed protesting the anthem to his team, but hoped he wouldn’t have to deal with the extra and unnecessary media attention.
“I think everybody has a right to do, and I get it, but the National Anthem means a lot to myself personally, the organization and our football team,” Jackson told Cleveland.com. “I hope — again I can’t speak, I haven’t really talked to our team about it — I would hope that we don’t have those issues.”
Jackson later clarified his comments on Thursday, telling reporters he would respect a player’s decision to protest as long as it is in a peaceful manner and he is informed of the player’s intention ahead of time.
Jenkins, Bennett and Marshawn Lynch have all protested for social justice by raising a fist, kneeling and sitting during the anthem, respectively, so far this preseason.
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick controversially sat — and later knelt — during the anthem all of last season in order to raise awareness of social injustice and racism in America. Kaepernick remains unsigned after opting out of his contract this offseason.
While no Jets player has protested yet, coach Todd Bowles said it is their “individual right” if they so choose to do so and he would be supportive of his players if that situation arises.
“It’s their individual right. We don’t have a rulebook on what’s right to protest and not protest. You don’t know those things until the course of time,” Bowles said while speaking to the media after the Jets’ practice on Wednesday. “Whether it’s sitting for the anthem, whether it’s raising your first, whether it’s speaking out, whether it’s a walk to Washington, who’s to say whose protest is good or bad, you know?”