A group of Cleveland Browns players chose to kneel and huddle during the national anthem before Monday's preseason game against the New York Giants.
Linebackers Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey, running backs Duke Johnson, Terrence Magee, Isaiah Crowell and Brandon Wilds, wide receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis, safeties Jabrill Peppers and Calvin Pryor, tight end Seth DeValve and cornerback Jamar Taylor all dropped to one knee during the anthem.
“The United States is the greatest country in the world. It is because it provides opportunities to its citizens that no other country does," said DeValve, believed to be the first white NFL player to kneel during the anthem this year. "The issue is that it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody. And I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee.
"We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there’s things in this country that still need to change. I myself will be raising children that don’t look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now.”
Several other players — rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, offensive tackle Shon Coleman, punter Britton Colquitt, cornerback Jason McCourty and offensive guard Marcus Martin — stood next to the group and placed an arm on a kneeling teammate.
“As professional athletes, in our realm and with our platform, we can invoke a lot of change,” McCourty said. “Guys are trying to do something to stand on our platform and show people that we want to stand up for this country and show that no matter what your color is, no matter what your background is, whatever, we can all come together and work together to make it a better place.”
The Browns issued a statement during the game in response to the players' action.
"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 wrote. "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 players' stance comes after Browns coach Hue Jackson was criticized last week for saying he hoped player protests "wouldn't happen here."
“We respect our players; we respect the flag,” Jackson said following Cleveland’s 10-6 win. “Those guys came to me and talked to me about it before they ever made a decision to do it. That is the way we feel about it, and we have talked about this. I said at some point in time, they may, and they have. I won’t know about the next game until it happens, but again, this was tonight and we will move on from there.”
A growing number of players have followed in former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's steps by deciding to either sit or kneel during the national anthem. Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch and Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett were among the players who chose not to stand during either of their teams' preseason games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.