The players spoke to racial inequality in the wake of a team controversy.
The Cleveland Browns organization knew it would be the focus of the ongoing national anthem controversy entering week one of the NFL season. Rather than allow others to speak on the team’s behalf, the Browns allowed the players to offer their own thoughts on racial inequality in a short video that aired in the team’s stadium immediately before kickoff.
The Browns made headlines in the preseason when 12 of the players, including a white team member, Seth DeValve, took a knee during the national anthem, the largest protest showing by a team to date. Cleveland police were angered enough by the display that they said they would decline to participate in any week one ceremonies.
The protest stems from the actions of Colin Kaepernick last season, who took a knee on his own in the wake of perceived racial inequality following several controversial instances of police treatment of black citizens.
However, the police and Cleveland appeared to work out an agreement before the game because the players and law enforcement officials went out on the field together and stood for the anthem arm in arm.
Before today's game, Browns players and Cleveland police officers stood with arms linked in a display of unity. https://t.co/Stl0nd8yRE— FOX Sports: NFL (@FOX Sports: NFL) 1505076951.0
The video’s airing allowed the players to be heard and shifted the focus from the controversy itself to the message the players are trying to spread. The clip went viral shortly after.
A special message on unity and equality from members of the Cleveland Browns. https://t.co/CvyTdgTaIS— Cleveland Browns (@Cleveland Browns) 1505062637.0
Unsurprisingly, the video’s content leans more positive and uplifting than it does critical of the state of affairs in the U.S. and the NFL, but the video still offered the players a better platform to clarify their opinions than kneeling does. The video helped the Browns control the conversation surrounding the team going into the first game of the season.