Browns Owners Will Support Baker Mayfield, Players Who Kneel for Anthem

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2020

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Gary Landers/Associated Press

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said he plans on kneeling during the national anthem this season as a means of protesting police brutality and systemic racism.

Team owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam are OK with that.

"One of the great things about this country, one of the many great things, is the ability to have freedom of speech and being able to express yourself," Jimmy Haslam said on a video call, per Tom Withers of the Associated Press. "So we are going to support our players."

Withers noted Mayfield said he plans on kneeling this season when asked about it before Friday's first practice of training camp.

"Right is right, and wrong is wrong," he said. "There is a human rights issue that has been going on for a long time, and I believe in that."

In June, Mayfield said on Instagram that he will "absolutely" kneel this season.

He also said: "If I lose fans, that's okay. I've always spoken my mind. And that's from the heart."

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

“If I lose fans, that’s okay. I’ve always spoken my mind. And that’s from the heart.” @bakermayfield on fans being upset with him for planning to kneel this season @brgridiron https://t.co/kyG9M28DRS

Jimmy Haslam suggested anyone who may be upset that Mayfield plans on protesting police brutality and systemic racism should try looking at it from his perspective and engage in more "thoughtful dialogue" instead of defaulting to anger.

He said: 

"There is just all of this condemnation from one side versus the other, rather than everybody trying to understand, 'Well, why is that important to you, Baker? You are a thoughtful young man. You understand the ramifications.' So we are going to be fully supportive of our players no matter what they decide to do. We just ask that, as a country, we have a lot more thoughtful dialogue."

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick notably protested police brutality and systemic racism by kneeling during the anthem in 2016 and has remained unsigned since he opted out of his contract after that campaign.

He led the 49ers to the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game in back-to-back years during the 2012 and 2013 seasons and threw 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2016.

While Kaepernick received plenty of criticism for kneeling, the league's tone seemingly shifted following the killing of George Floyd and the worldwide protests his death sparked. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to a video from some of the league's biggest stars that asked the league to take a stronger stance, and he said the league was "wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier" and encouraged them to "speak out and peacefully protest."