Several unions representing the Cleveland police and first-responders plan to skip the annual ritual of holding the giant American Flag for opening day. The spokesmen for the groups say their members were offended by Cleveland Browns players who took a knee during the National Anthem during one of the preseason games.
The police and first-responders who belong to these unions had planned to be a part of the annual ritual flag ceremony, but not this time. Now they want nothing to do with the Cleveland Browns unless the team cleans up their disrespectful act and stops mixing their politics with their job.
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They feel that by players not standing for the National Anthem is disrespectful to the sacrifices that people have made to allow these highly paid men to play a boys game and earn millions. They note that while they reap the benefit of the protection the flag has given them, they continue to disrespect it by kneeling and other forms of silent protest. Others contest that the flag grants them the freedom to protest, which is part of their freedom of speech. The opposing notion to that idea is that speech is free, but often comes with consequences such as lower revenue because some fans boycott. A team like the Cleveland Browns, who are rather terrible, can't afford to lose any ticket sales or revenue streams.
The front office of the Cleveland Browns, according to the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steve Loomis, openly condones the players offensive behavior with such official statements like, "As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country's National Anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad. We feel it's important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression."
The incident that sparked this latest move by law enforcement and first-responders occurred on August 21st when Browns players knelt during the national anthem before their game with the New York Giants.
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Loomis stated that many Browns supporters are patriotic citizens and see the provocative gestures by the players as a slap in the face.
He stated that when a team's administration not only allows, but supports such offensive protests, that's their prerogative, and sitting out functions such as the flag ceremony are the police and first responders' prerogatives. Loomis sees that Browns management's stance as hypocritical by holding an armed forces and first-responder day, yet allowing their players to display disrespectful protests in their faces. Loomis said that by allowing them to take a knee during the anthem, which is the very representation that they stand for is unacceptable and that is the reason for their non-participation in the ceremony.
A spokeswoman for the police department stated that the unions do not speak for the police department as a whole and that the Division of Police is not boycotting the Browns nor ceasing participation in events with its police officers.
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Another of the unions that will forgo the flag ceremony said that while the NFL likes to boast how much they love the military and first-responders and all they have done and continue to do for the country, they don't show it because they're not putting out any rules regarding protests of the National Anthem.
Jabrill Peppers of the Browns explained the players' protest noting that there is a lot of racial injustice in the world and that they decided to kneel for the anthem only to pray for the people affected by these injustices and also pray for the world in general. Many fans question if this is the appropriate time, place, or way to protest or pray. Why disrespect the National Anthem and American flag? What's the purpose of protesting one thing to show support for another? Why not support everything?
The NFL's popularity has declined over the years and this year might see a dip in viewership. This all translates into less money for the owners to pay the players. If the owners lose too much money, then they raise prices on the fans. Protest of the National Anthem could hurt the fans in the long run. With the amount they charge for drinks and parking, the average fan is already paying way too much.
Do the few protesting players really want to keep disrespecting fans and put them in a position where they might be asked to pay even more for the already expensive cost of attending an NFL game?
If someone pays $8 per beer, then that's $240 for a thirty pack. Does that seem right to anyone? Can you imagine what happens if the greedy team owners raise the prices more to make up for the revenue they lose to protesting athletes?