12 Cleveland Browns Players Kneel, Pray for Justice During National Anthem

By Sameer Rao Aug 22, 2017

Several NFL players have carried the still-unsigned Colin Kaepernick‘s kneeling protest against police violence and racism into the 2017 preseason. The largest action so far took place last night (August 21), when 12 Cleveland Browns players kneeled in a circle as the national anthem played before their 10-6 home victory against the New York Giants. 

ESPN‘s video of the action (above) shows 12 players in a mix of uniform and warm-up gear. The outlet identifies the participants as running backs Duke Johnson Jr., Terrence Magee, Isaiah Crowell and Brandon Wilds; linebackers Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins; safeties Jabrill Peppers and Calvin Pryors; receivers Kenny Britt and Louis Ricardo; cornerback Jamar Taylor and tight end Seth DeValve. Several other players stood with hands on their teammates’ shoulders.

Players told ESPN that Kirksey led a prayer during the action. "If anyone was wondering what was going on in that circle, we were saying a prayer," Kirksey told a reporter from local sports outlet 92.3 The Fan in the above post-game interview. "We were just praying over the country, praying over things that’s going on."

Peppers commented with more specificity. "There’s a lot of racial and social injustices in the world that are going on right now," he said to ESPN. "We just decided to take a knee and pray for the people who have been affected and just pray for the world in general."

ESPN identifies DeValve as the first White NFL player to take part in this type of protest, which has been almost exclusively led by Black players. The outlet adds that DeValve mentioned the deadly White supremacist violence in Charlottesville in his post-game comments, as well as his wife Erica, who is Black, and their future children: "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." 

A Cleveland.com reporter tweeted the following statement from Browns management after the game: 

Kaepernick acknowledged the Browns players by retweeting the following message from the Know Your Rights Camp, a program he funds that leads children of color in workshops around law enforcement interactions and civil rights:

Kaepernick’s ongoing free agency after last season has prompted accusations that the NFL and its predomianantly White male team owners are punishing him for publicly attacking structural racism. Many of his supporters are expected to protest his seeming exclusion at United We Stand: Rally for Colin Kaepernick outside the NFL’s Manhattan headquarters tomorrow (August 23).