Cleveland Browns: Should Isaiah Crowell be punished for social media post?

May 18, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (34) runs with the ball during official training activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (34) runs with the ball during official training activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns are facing the question of whether or not to punish running back Isaiah Crowell for a controversial Instagram post.

Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell issued an apology on Monday for an Instagram post  of a drawing showing a police officer being stabbed in the neck by a man in a black hood.

The caption on the social media post read, “They give police all types of weapons and they continually choose to kill us….#Weak,” according to The Plain Dealer, and Crowell deleted the post shortly after he put it up.

Crowell issued the following apology, which was released by the Browns:

"“Last week was an emotional and difficult week as we saw extreme acts of violence against black men across our country as well as against police officers in Dallas."

"“I posted an image to Instagram in the midst of that emotion that I shouldn’t have and immediately removed it. It was an extremely poor decision and I apologize for that mistake and for offending people. My values and beliefs do not match that image."

"“I am outraged and upset by the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile along with so many others.  I am also outraged and saddened by the attacks in Dallas and the deaths of the 5 honorable police officers (Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa) who were providing protection while trying to keep peace. We have to be better as a society, it’s not about color, it’s about what’s right and wrong."

"“I was very wrong in posting that image. Every single life matters, every death as a result of violence should be treated with equal outrage and penalty.”"

“It’s important for guys to have that freedom of speech, but you have to understand the responsibility that comes with it. “When in doubt, don’t.” – Baltimore’s Chris Canty on using social media

Even though the team – rather than Crowell or one of his representatives – issued the statement, no one from the Browns initially commented about the situation until a few hours after Crowell’s apology when the team released the following statement:

"“We have spoken to Isaiah regarding his extremely disturbing and unacceptable social media decision. It was completely inappropriate and we have made him aware of our high level of disappointment. Isaiah has apologized but also knows that just an apology is insufficient and that he must take steps to make a positive difference after a very negative and impactful post.”"

The NFL has also remained quiet on the matter.

Crowell’s posting of the image and subsequent apology has also woken up Browns Nation, with some fans demanding that the team release the third-year running back, while others willing to accept his apology and move on.

The NFL leaves it up to each team to set its own guidelines for how players use social media, according to USA Today, and should address the following four points:

The league says statements on social media should be “professional, accurate, and consistent with the NFL and club’s mission values” and should not reveal game strategy, injury information or personal information about a player.

The guidelines also say statements displaying obscenity or criticism of officiating, opposing players, owners, coaches, fans or threatening comments are subject to discipline. However, the amount of possible fines is never mentioned.

The NFL Players Association’s position is that as long as a team’s social media policy is consistent with the collective bargaining agreement, they are fine with whatever a team sets up. However, the union does not believe that players should worry about being punished if they comment on social issues.

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“The player can take it under advisement and do whatever he wants,” spokesman George Atallah told USA Today. “If the player wants to engage in social issues and it doesn’t violate a certain policy, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

As sensitive as the topic is in the wake of recent shootings in Texas, Minnesota and Louisiana, it seems unlikely that the Browns will not discipline Crowell in some fashion. While no one should attempt to deny Crowell his right to express himself, the Browns are well within their rights to hold him accountable for what he posted.

Releasing Crowell is probably too extreme as it is easy to understand the emotion behind his post. But doing nothing would probably send the wrong message as what Crowell posted was extreme. It seems more likely that the Browns will land somewhere in the middle with a fine on top of Crowell’s apology.

Next: Chad Johnson wants to join Browns coaching staff

So much for the quiet off-season the Browns were enjoying.