Cleveland Browns Kneel During National Anthem After Charlottesville

Cleveland Brown players kneel during national anthem

Cleveland Brown players took a knee and prayed during the national anthem on Monday night in responses to events in Charlottesville, Virginia last week.

At least 12 players were included in the huddle, which was led in prayer by linebacker Christian Kirskey ahead of their preseason win against the New York Giants. Other players supported the protest by placing a hand on the back of their kneeling teammates.

The symbolic gesture had been the planned response to the ugly events that had shocked the U.S. last week.

Rookie safety Jabrill Peppers admitted that the players felt they needed to do something to show their defiance in the face of hatred following the hate-filled rally, which saw members of the alt-right, white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members chant racist and antisemitic slogans during a torch light rally.

He said: “There’s a lot of racial and social injustices in the world that are going on right now.

“We just decided to take a knee and pray for the people who have been affected and just pray for the world in general.”

Speaking to ESPN Kirskey, who led the prayers, explained they had done it” out of respect”.

He added: “No disrespect for anyone, we just felt like it was the right time and the need to do it.”

While he didn’t mention Charlottesville directly, tight end Seth DeValve did and said the prayer was in response to the events that had left most in the US in shock and also as a sign that the US must unite in the face of such hatred.

Admitting he had been motivated to join his teammates in part because his wife is African American, he said: “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.

“So I wanted to take the opportunity with my teammates during the anthem to pray for our country and also to draw attention to the fact that we have work to do.”

DeValve admitted it “saddened” him that such action was even neccessary and insisted it had been a peaceful tribute to America: “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 protect this courtly and serve this country. 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 citizens that no other country does. The issue is that it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody.

“I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee.”

Following the protest the Browns released an official statement at halftime insisting that while the NFL team had respect for their country, they also respected their player’s freedom as citizens of the United States.

It read: “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.”