Cleveland Browns: The most profound kneeling yet

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 21: A group of Cleveland Browns players kneel in a circle in protest during the national anthem prior to a preseason game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 21: A group of Cleveland Browns players kneel in a circle in protest during the national anthem prior to a preseason game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns scored their first win of the season when the 17 players joined together in solidarity prior to Monday’s game against the New York Giants.

When people say things like “athletes should just stick to sports,” it’s not that they don’t care about the players and their opinions. It really has nothing to do with their opinion, no matter what it is.

Truthfully, people say these things because it brings reality to entertainment. We all have used sports as a distraction from our daily lives. Whether it’s work, school, family troubles, etc., it doesn’t matter. We use sports to veer from real life.

People don’t like to see it when the real world mixes with entertainment. We watch movies, TV, sports, etc., to avoid the real world. What we want is for our actors to act, our singers to sing and our players to play. That’s it.

However, it’s 2017 and times have changed. Entertainers are people, too, just like us. Whether we like it or not. People with hopes. People with dreams. People with fears. Just like us.

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Before Monday night’s preseason game with the New York Giants, 17 Cleveland Browns players joined together to either kneel or stand with each other in a sign of solidarity. This time, though, it was different. Two white players, tight end Seth DeValve and punter Britton Colquit, were among the players present.

Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who said he will continue to sit during the national anthem, pointed out this preseason about the need for white players to help in this movement, according to The Washington Post:

"“It would take a white player to really get things changed, because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it, it would change the whole conversation. Because you bring somebody who doesn’t really have to be a part of the conversation, making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a big jump.”"

Not long after Bennett said that he got his wish. Chris Long of the Philadelphia Eagles, Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders and Justin Britt of the Seattle Seahawks, all white players, have been seen showing solidarity with their black teammates during the national anthem prior to their preseason games.

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This is not a way of showing any sort of disrespect, but rather a sign of brotherhood and love. A symbolic gesture saying that they are not alone. Their message has been heard and their teammates are there to support them.

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It’s moments like these, when the racial tension is lowered in America  just a little bit, that we can see signs of progress, pride and respect for each other. It reminds us that black players will and have been trail blazers for progress, but that they can’t do it alone.

This brings to mind former athletes like Peter Norman at the 1968 Olympics or Harold “Pee Wee” Reese with the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers. Neither are household names, but both were white athletes who understood and were sensitive to black people and their struggles.

What was most profound about the Browns anthem kneeling came from DeValve, who is married to a black woman. He spoke about his future children and how he wants them to have nothing but the best, according to ESPN:

"“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.”"

It shouldn’t take a white man who has married himself into a black family to gain some sort of perspective. However, with not only having a player kneel alongside his black teammates, but another (Colquitt) to be there, too, as a sign of brotherhood, speaks volumes. It shows that progress is being made. Slowly but surely.

What we need to remind ourselves is that progress  does not mean the job is done. We may wish it to be done, but progress means that good things are happening and will hopefully continue to occur. More still needs to be done.

Regardless of any personal feelings about the anthem protests, what we can hope for is less violence and hatred, and more respect for each other and how each other feels. We are all never going to see eye to eye, but we don’t need to.

If the white players standing and kneeling with their black teammates, their brothers, tells us anything is that all of us can, too. We don’t have to agree on the method of protest, but rather understand that we can look out for each other.

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The athletes of the past, present and future who made an effort to bring forth change for all the people they care about should be applauded. You don’t have to like what they did or agree with people who do, but we must respect one another.

It’s only the preseason, but the Browns have started out the 2017 season with a win.