Browns launch initiative after Andrew Berry asks everyone to “Be the solution”

EVP/GM, team aims to educate and make change possible

Daryl Ruiter
June 24, 2020 - 9:06 pm

CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer was the breaking point for the nation as evidenced by the protests and call for change that have followed.

Browns executive vice president of football operations and general manager Andrew Berry, a father to two young African America children, felt the pain and anger many others have across the country.

He also felt an opportunity present itself too.

On June 5, Berry wrote a lengthy email to the entire organization expressing his thoughts on what had transpired and what he felt he and his coworkers could do to make a difference individually and collectively.

“I think what Andrew did was outstanding,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “It’s a message we’ve constantly been harping on is being about action and Andrew very specifically was about things we can do, things we can educate ourselves with.

“It was really a challenge to all of us. This has been a stark reminder of how we can affect positive change and anything I can do to help our players do that, I’m going to do.”

Berry closed his email with a challenge. He would donate $8,460 in honor of George Floyd and other recent victims to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund if at least 50 employees did one of the following:

1. Spend at least 8 minutes and 46 seconds (in honor of Floyd) on one of a number of educational or dialogue items provided in the email and submit a short written or video reflection on what they learned or will do moving forward.

2. Sign up for any social activism initiative

3. Donate anything to a social activism cause

Within 24 hours Berry received well over 50 responses from employees and the Haslam family pledged to match every dollar raised and contributed to the organizations of the employees’ choice.

As of Monday, $185,522.74 was raised for 14 different charities internally.

“It’s been a very encouraging response,” Berry said. “It’s something that, if scaled appropriately, I think we could actually make real change in our society.”

Berry’s email served as the inspiration for the Browns’ “Be The Solution” campaign unveiled Wednesday night in which he and the team invited all Browns players, alumni, fans and media to participate.

“These deaths have reverberated throughout our country. And enough is enough,” Berry said in a video released Wednesday night.

“Words alone are not enough if we truly want change. Meaningful change comes with education, dialogue and most importantly deliberate action.”

The team launched a webpage that included Berry’s video message, links to social justice causes, suggested books, movies and other media – including a list of Black-owned businesses to support in Cleveland.

“We are a family. We’re in this for one reason,” Berry said. “We realize what’s right, and there are some things that are more important than football. I think too many times organizations can be tone deaf to those dynamics. This is one of those moments where our focus can’t be only or solely what goes on between those white lines. There are just bigger societal issues at play. 

“NFL teams, in general, have such an influence on their communities that if we can’t be at the front of the pack on some of these issues that impact all of us, then shame on us.”

Hall of Famer Jim Brown has fought for racial justice throughout his life and Browns owner Dee Haslam is a member of the NFL's player-owner social justice committee, which was established in December 2017.

Earlier this month during a virtual team meeting, Stefanski challenged his players to “get in the arena” to affect social justice change. Stefanski put his own words into action by attending a peaceful protest with his sons, mother and Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

During that meeting, led by Jarvis Landry, players spoke passionately of their own personal, family or friends’ experiences with law enforcement, and the fears as black men that come with those interactions.

On the day of Floyd’s funeral, Stefanski visited the Tamir Rice memorial garden along with Berry, vice president of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and other members of the organization.

“We felt it was important to pay our respects,” Stefanski said. “That was an event in this community that I was not here for, but I know how impactful it was.”

Rice, who was playing with a toy gun in a park, was killed by Cleveland Police almost immediately upon arriving on the scene in November 2014.

Following Rice’s death, former Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a t-shirt over his uniform when he took the field prior to a game that drew national attention.

Days later, Hawkins held back tears as he stood in the locker room and worried that his son may one day suffer the same fate as Rice.

The officers were not charged. An FBI review affirmed the shooting was justified and the officer’s response was reasonable. The city of Cleveland settled with Rice’s family for $6 million.

The lack of accountability for law enforcement’s use of deadly force towards African American’s is at the heart of the protests that followed Floyd’s death.  

Berry doesn't want the momentum to lose steam, but he wants to channel it effectively. 

“Let’s not let the emotions of the past couple of weeks pass by in vain,” Berry said. “Get involved. Unite together. Be the solution.”