Cleveland police union will not hold flag after 'ignorant' Browns anthem protest

During their Week 2 preseason game on Monday night against the Giants, a dozen Browns players went to a knee during the national anthem in the largest protest from a group of football players the NFL has seen. The presence of tight end Seth DeValve, one of the first white players to take a knee, had a profound impact on many who saw the protest. 

The Cleveland Police Union, however, did not take kindly to the display from the Browns and is now refusing to hold the American flag during the first Browns regular season game in protest of the protest from the Browns players, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

"It's just ignorant for someone to do that," Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association President Steve Loomis said. "It just defies logic to me. The fact that management was aware of what they planned on doing, that's as offensive as it can get."

There is some irony here: the union is refusing to hold the American flag out of protest for the players protesting the American national anthem. (Surely someone else sees how this is the same thing. Surely they see it.) 

The Browns are in a weird spot on this one and took the Switzerland path right down the middle in a statement following the initial protest.

"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," the Browns said at the time. "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."

They will likely take the same path when it comes to the union, even though Loomis is not pulling any punches when blaming management for allowing this to happen.

"When management allows you to do those things, then that's on them," Loomis said. "It's hypocritical of the Browns management and ownership to want to have an armed forces first-responder day, and have us involved in it when they allow their players to take a knee during the national anthem. That's the very representation of what we stand for. That's why we aren't going to."

The protest is actually at odds with some of the messages that have come from key members of the franchise. Coach Hue Jackson said he does not want to see players sitting or kneeling during the anthem, but that may be about him trying to control the situation as a coach as much as anything. 

"I think everybody has a right to do, and I get it, but the national anthem means a lot to myself personally, the organization and our football team," Jackson said previously. "I hope -- again I can't speak, I haven't really talked to our team about it -- I would hope that we don't have those issues."

Former Browns running back and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, a noted social activist during his time, said the players should stand during the anthem and not "disrespect the flag."

The union has the right to protest a protest, the same as the players have the right to protest in the first place. And it's quite clear that, even though not everyone will agree with the message, the Browns players are trying to promote unity and kindness to other humans in a peaceful way. 

What makes things really dicey from an optics and public-police relationship standpoint is that the union does not represent the police department. And the police department is making that clear.

"The union does not speak for the Division," spokesperson Jennifer Ciaccia told the Huffington Post. "The Division of Police is in no way boycotting the Browns, nor denying participation in events with our officers."

The EMS union will also not be participating in the holding of the flag, a spokesperson told Fox 8 in Cleveland.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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