Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield defends stance on anthem
The Cleveland Browns starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield, is still being challenged in the national media concerning his stance on the national anthem, even though he made it clear back in June that he and his teammates would take a knee this year.
This came up again in Friday’s video conference when he again reiterated that he would be doing so, while also making it abundantly clear that their intention was not to disrespect the flag itself or the US military.
The following quote is from Mayfield which came during his presser.
"“It is nothing against [the] military or anybody who served. Anybody that knows my history knows that I completely support military and the people that serve our country [serve] for the right reasons and do it for justice. The people that do not know that, that is OK – just take your time and take a second to get to know me. It is a human rights issue.” — Mayfield"
It may or may not be the best way to help resolve the social justice issues that the players are most concerned about, but at this point, Mayfield has to support his fellow players. Whatever the Browns do — stand at attention, salute, take a knee, link arms, do cartwheels, backflips, or whatever it is they think they need to do — they should do it as a team.
At the beginning of the anthem controversy, the NFL was probably being unfairly singled out, since they had nothing to do with hiring police officers associated with alleged criminal behavior in various localities across the countries.
However, the NFL effectively bought into the issue through the efforts of hardline owners and made it their issue. They became a party protecting social injustice against the NFL players, and that was bad. In other words, social injustice became the NFL’s pet cause, and anyone protesting against it was supposed to be fired, at least if the hardliners would have had their way.
This is old news that has been festering for quite some time. This summer, with the death of George Floyd, there was the collective realization within the NFL that nonviolent protest should not be suppressed.
For their part, Dee and Jimmy Haslam had wisely expressed support for the players from the get-go.
"“We view our organization, our league and our players as great unifiers of people. Our players, just like so many others across our league, have been honest and thoughtful with their attempt to bring awareness to the issues of inequality and social injustice. We were incredibly moved by the meaningful and powerful dialogue they initiated within our organization when they spoke of their intent to unify and not be disrespectful while using familiar and important terms like one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Their intent is to create positive and unifying change and that was demonstrated well by the unity they led prior to our home opener. They have continued to prove this dedication to unite diverse members of our community throughout this past month by establishing direct conversation with the Cleveland Police Department and creating a plan to work together in our neighborhoods.” — Dee and Jimmy Haslam, September 24, 2017"
Of course, when you are the former Heisman Trophy winner and quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, your remarks are going to get national attention, so Mayfield’s remarks have been carried in USAToday, Fox News, the New York Post.
However, Mayfield is totally on the correct side of this issue. The Browns’ position should not even be controversial at this point.
Legally minded readers will no doubt remind us that the First Amendment does not pertain to employers, and the NFL does not have to allow its players to make political speeches. That is true, but within the Browns organization, there is a tradition of using the public platform that goes with being a sports celebrity to bring about positive changes in the community. This is not the first controversy they have faced.
More than 50 years ago Jim Brown organized a “Cleveland Summit Meeting” with the likes of Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, John Wooten, and even future Cleveland mayor Carl Stokes, revolving around Ali’s refusal on religious grounds to be inducted into the army. If you thought Colin Kaepernick was a controversial sports star, Jim Brown knew how to stir the pot also.
However, on a less controversial basis, the NFL has had a partnership with United Way that seeks to effect changes in people’s lives in a positive way. Likewise, the Cleveland Browns Foundation contributes to a number of causes, often supporting children in the local area. These are real changes in the local community, and the celebrity that comes with football is definitely a force multiplier.
Put it this way, if Baker Mayfield or Myles Garrett asks you to write a check to support a cause that he thinks is important, there is a good chance you are going to write that check. United Way and the Cleveland Browns Foundation are forces for social change and social justice, but they don’t make as much noise or generate as much controversy as the national anthem ruckus. In this writer’s opinion, they are probably much more effective also.
Lastly, a personal note. I am no John Rambo, but I did serve 10 years in the US Air Force, four years active duty and six years in the Reserves. I cannot speak for my fellow vets, but I have zero animosity to the NFL players for what they are doing. In no way do I believe that any NFL football player looks down on me for serving in the military.
They do look down on me for being a sportswriter, however.