Browns players react to new NFL anthem policy

NFLPA angry players were not consulted by league's owners

Daryl Ruiter
May 23, 2018 - 4:01 pm
The Cleveland Browns team stand and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

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Berea, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The NFL’s new national anthem policy received mixed reactions from a few Cleveland Browns players Wednesday.

The news broke while the Browns were on the practice field for the second of their voluntary OTA practices, and the players were informed of the new policy by reporters who asked them about it after practice, catching them off guard.

“To make a decision that strong you would hope the players would have input on it, but obviously not,” quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. “That’s what we have to deal with as players -- not a good or bad thing – at the end of the day they call the shots and make the rules so that’s what we have to abide by.

“I think the main thing out of all of it is that each ball club is having open communication with the players and the ownership about the issues that are going on in the community and trying to change it. I know Mr. Jim and Mrs. Dee Haslam, leaving the team that I came from in Buffalo, they’ve been proactive about the situation and trying to do things in the community.”  

Under the new policy adopted by NFL owners Wednesday, players and team personnel present on the sideline “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem” or any team that violates the policy could face a fine from the league.

Players and team personnel will also have the option to remain in the locker room during the anthem.

“I’ve always respected the flag, so that really doesn’t have anything to do with me,” receiver Jarvis Landry said.

“It’s a controversial topic. I know for me personally, and I can only speak for myself, I respect the flag. I use that moment to come to peace and take all the elements in, so for me personally it doesn’t bother me or affect me, and I’ll leave it at that.”

Running back Duke Johnson was among several Browns players who kneeled during the preseason and portions of the regular season drawing national attention to the team.

"That's not my call,” Johnson said Wednesday concerning the new policy. “If the owners feel that's what they need to do, then they do it. But at the end of the day this football team will decide what we want and what we think is best at that moment so it’s okay."

While head coach Hue Jackson was also unfamiliar with the newly enacted policy, he praised the organization not only for how the controversy was handled last year, but what the Browns have done in response to the criticism. 

"I know one thing I am most proud about is just the way our players handled it this past year and the way Dee and Jimmy, what they’ve done creating the summits that they’ve had with our players and all the dialogue that we’ve had about these things I think has been spectacular," Jackson said. "So I’m sure that we’ll discuss it further. But again, I think our organization’s kind of really taken a step forward with that to address what was going on."

The decision Wednesday essentially bans any displays by players making kneeling, locking arms or raising a fist in the air a violation and subject to the fine.

“We want people to be respectful to the national anthem,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during a press conference at the owners’ meetings in Atlanta. “We want people to stand. That’s all personnel, and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something we think we owe. We have been very sensitive in making sure we give players choices, but we do believe that that moment is important and one we are going to focus on.”

The NFL Players Association did not react well to the new policy and was not happy they were not consulted before it was unilaterally implemented by the owners, many of whom are staunch conservative republicans.

“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,’ ” the NFLPA said in a statement. “NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.

“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.

“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”