BEREA, Ohio -- Sashi Brown said Tuesday that he hopes any member of the Cleveland Browns who chooses to make a social statement during the national anthem this season does so in a “thoughtful [and] responsible” way.
Brown, the team’s vice president of football operations, also spoke with passion about recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a white supremacist march and subsequent protests led to a woman being killed Saturday when a man drove a car into a group protesting the original march.
“Let me say this, if you step back ... just where we are as a country,” Brown said on 92.3-The Fan in Cleveland. “If you look at Charlottesville, if you go back a couple of years to the shooting at the church in Charleston, we just aren’t close to where we need to be.
“Those types of [events] are going to affect, should affect, every American. Unfortunately in some cases they don’t in the same way. But we have to respect that it’s going to impact players in our locker room as well.
“So, as [coach] Hue [Jackson] said [Monday], we respect the fact that some of our players may choose to express themselves. You can call it a protest, you can call it expression. And I think for us, it’s incumbent upon us as an organization to make sure that as they do that, that we have a dialogue with them that shows that when they express themselves that way it’s thoughtful, it’s responsible.
“And we’ve had that here. If you go back to Hawk [receiver Andrew Hawkins] and others who have been on the team and who have been leaders of our team, we’ve had that, certainly.”
Last season, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then of the 49ers, chose not to stand during the anthem in hopes, he said, of starting a dialogue about race relations in the United States. A few other players chose to take similar actions, but none with the Browns.
Jackson said he hoped it would not happen with this season’s team. But he, like Brown, recognized the players’ right to express themselves. During the weekend, Marshawn Lynch of the Raiders and Michael Bennett of the Seahawks chose not to stand for the anthem.
“The national anthem means a lot to myself personally, our organization and our football team,” Jackson said on Monday. “I hope -- again I can’t speak, I haven’t really talked to our team about it -- I would hope we don’t have those issues. I understand there’s a lot going on in the world. I like to just keep it here.”
“I think this generation of players really gets it, I do,” Brown continued in the interview. “And without wading into that, we understand as an organization also that we’ve got a profound respect and love for this country, what our flag represents, a great tradition of a national anthem that’s played before every home game and celebrating our military and servicemen and women of the country. You hope those two things don’t have to be so at odds.”
He admitted divisions in the country make for difficult and complex issues.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an organization that can solve this issue,” Brown said. “I think we as a country, as a population of people, have to find the right leadership to do it. I’m not sure we’re there right now as a country, certainly. I think much work is left to be done, and our guys understand that.
“So as we move forward, certainly we want to focus on football, but we also understand how these types of issues people feel so passionately about and impact a lot of the guys in our locker room are going to be issues that are going to be on their minds.”