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On the eve of the Cleveland Browns’ season opener in Baltimore, quarterback Baker Mayfield announced he had reversed his decision to kneel during the national anthem.
Mayfield explained Saturday afternoon in a prepared statement he posted on Twitter and Instagram that he wouldn’t kneel after all because he believed it would “only create more division or discussion about the gesture, rather than be a solution towards our country’s problems.”
Mayfield vowed June 13 on Instagram to kneel in protest of social injustice and racial inequality. The pledge came in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on Memorial Day after a white former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. At the time, Mayfield also said he didn’t mind if he lost some fans who disagreed with him.
On Aug. 14, Mayfield told reporters he had no regrets about the promise to kneel.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Mayfield said then. “I think being in my position, which is a blessing, being out on a platform to where I can speak on issues that are just wrong [is important]. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. There’s a human rights issue that’s been going on for a long time, and I believe in that.
“It’s nothing against military, anybody who’s served. And anybody that knows my history knows that I completely support military and the people that serve our country for the right reasons and do it for justice. And the people that don’t know that, that’s OK. Just take a second to get to know me. It’s a human rights issue. There’s right, and there’s wrong.”
The police shooting of Black man Jacob Blake on Aug. 23 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, prompted the Browns to create their most recent social justice initiative. It focuses on education, police reform and accountability, economic advancement and community support and non-partisan voter registration, education and turnout. Before a training camp practice Aug. 30, Mayfield, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and wide receiver Jarvis Landry read from a statement to announce those areas of concentration.
Mayfield is one of 11 players on the Browns’ social justice leadership committee formed by coach Kevin Stefanski. The team has discussed what it will do to send a social justice message prior to Sunday’s kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium, but Stefanski and defensive end Myles Garrett, another member of the committee, declined to reveal the plans during Friday’s media availability.
Here is the full statement Mayfield released Saturday:
“After watching Thursday’s game and also watching the Dolphins player’s video.. it shows that it is not about who is standing or who is kneeling for the anthem. But instead, coming together and taking action to create real change.
“Also after reading many letters and messages over the past few weeks… I have been showed that a gesture such as kneeling will only create more division or discussion about the gesture, rather than be a solution towards our country’s problems at hand. With that being said, I am choosing to stand for both anthems to show respect, love, and unity to everybody involved.
“I will respect all of my teammates no matter their decision. We have had meaningful discussions on what true change looks like, and that change takes all of us being together. My heart is even more passionate than it was months ago, due to the fact that we are not close to being where our country needs to be. I love this country, but these challenges and adversity are an opportunity for much needed change for issues that have been going on for far too long. It is going to come down to how we handle adversity and taking advantage of our opportunities.
“I am posting this now so it is not a discussion on game day. And so the discussion can continue to be about how to better our country, instead of divide us. Our team is ready to fight for our goals both on and off the field.”
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