Cleveland Police officers say they won't hold a large American flag at the pre-game of next Sunday's Cleveland Browns season opening game, after a group of the team’s players knelt during the national anthem before a pre-season game in August.
Steve Loomis, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association president, said that police officers will not take part in the opening ceremony at the first season game on September 10.
“As a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and the United States Navy, and a 24-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department, I am not going to participate or work with management that allows their players to disrespect the flag and the national anthem,” Loomis told WKYC news channel on Saturday.
On August 22 more than a dozen Browns players staged the national anthem protest ahead of the team’s pre-season game against the New York Giants.
The action, which became the largest-ever national anthem-related NFL protest, saw almost a dozen players taking part. For the first time this included two white players, one of whom, Seth DeValve, became the first white NFL player to kneel in the protests, while Britton Colquitt stood next to the kneeling players with his hand on one of their shoulders.
The protest was spurred by the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a rally called “Unite the Right” turned violent as demonstrators clashed with counter-protesters. A man, later named James Fields Jr., also drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and leaving many more injured.
National anthem protests were common in the NFL last season, after the then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the end of August 2016.
Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract in March, has yet to be signed by another team.