CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – A group of at least 11 Browns players chose prayer as their protest in an effort to raise awareness of social injustice and racism.
In what was the largest visible display yet since NFL players began the demonstrations, the group huddled in prayer led by linebacker Christian Kirksey during the national anthem prior to Monday night’s nationally televised game with the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.
The decision to pray during the anthem came in the wake of a recent protest that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia and subsequent comments made by President Donald Trump.
“There is a lot of stuff going on in society,” Kirksey said. “Being in the NFL on this big platform, we can be a voice for a lot of people. We meant no disrespect to anyone. We just felt it was the right time, and we needed to do it.”
The group also included linebackers Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey, running backs Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and Terrance Magee, safety Jabrill Peppers, wide receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis, tight end Seth DeValve and defensive back Calvin Pryor.
“It saddens me that in 2017 we have to do something like that,” DeValve 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.”
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.
“I think that everybody knows when you turn on your TV or go on social media and see some of the things that are going on, you’re sickened by it,” McCourty said. “Kids look at us, and everybody looks at us. I think when we can show a sense of understanding of what is going on around us and a sense of purpose to want to change, I think that will help not only ourselves and our families, but everybody watching us.”
Aware of anger from those who believe the movement that was started last year by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is disrespectful to the flag, servicemen and servicewomen as well as first responders, they hoped a prayer would be viewed and received differently.
“We were just praying over the country and praying over things going on,” Kirksey said. “We did it as respectfully as possible and we respect everything that happened with things in the military. We respect all of that. We just felt it was the right time to for us to do this and say a prayer for this country.”
Kaepernick’s message and motive has been lost in his actions, which is something the Browns players hope doesn’t happen to the message they trieed to send Monday night.
“Hopefully, it can start to change things,” McCourty said. “That is the big key – you know two minutes of the national anthem as a protest, but you’d like to see the results of our day to day lives of people just getting along. It’s not even being friends; it’s just being cordial and getting along.
“Being in the south for the past eight years, I’ve gotten used to the ‘southern ways’ and I have enjoyed being here. You walk down the street and someone just says hi to you because you’re walking past, and I think that’s where we want to get to, just people loving one another just because we are all human beings.”
Last week head coach Hue Jackson came under fire for saying that he hoped he would not have to deal with protests from members of his team before recanting and promising to support their right to do so in a prepared statement he read a few days later.
Jackson was unequivocal in his support for his players Monday night.
“We respect our players; we respect the flag,” Jackson said. “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.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)