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Match Details: Cleveland Browns vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
League: NFL Preseason
Venue: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Date: 26 August 2017
Time: 07:30 PM E.T
What began as a referendum over agreement or disagreement about Colin Kaepernick has evolved into protest about players’ right to expression without fear of reprisals.
Days after Browns head coach Hue Jackson said he felt his team would not demonstrate during the playing of the national anthem, 12 of them did. Before the Aug. 19 game against the New York Giants, the players knelt while the anthem was being played but added a variation on the theme: They prayed.
Veteran Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey, who led the prayer session, told reporters: “We just wanted to get together, take a knee and say a prayer, especially during a time that a lot of things are going on. A lot of our guys felt that it was right to do something, and that’s what we did.”
I feel for Hue Jackson, one of a handful of black head coaches in the NFL.
Jackson has had to fight his own battles against racism in a league where African-Americans flourish as players but lag significantly behind as executives. Jackson knows of white supremacy, a new Confederacy, even new Nazi sentiment, and he knows many of the NFL owners supported the candidacy of a president who seems to stoke the sparks that sustain these groups.
Jackson went out of his way earlier this week to clarify his position that he loves the United States but believes in his players’ right to express themselves.
The Browns players, most of whom are African-American, appreciated Jackson’s precarious position as well. They spoke with him before the Giants game and let him know what they planned.
“He’s our head coach,” said Kirksey. “We don’t want to catch anything by surprise, so we felt it was respectful to let him know what was going on, what the players were going to do before the game. We went ahead and told him, and we did it.”
Jackson had his say, the players are having theirs. Bottom line: The Browns won their game against the Giants, and most Cleveland fans went home happy.
If the players keep kneeling and the Browns keep winning, the franchise, indeed a city that has not had an NFL champion since 1964, might make kneeling a pregame requirement.
Because of the protests, demonstrations and polarizing rhetoric, players in all sports find themselves in the unique position of being uniquely situated to unify and mobilize. Look at what Kaepernick has spawned, without really trying.
Significantly, in the past several weeks at least two white players, and probably more, have lent their support to what many have perceived as a “black” movement.