Fans up­set with protests can fight back

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Sports -

The Browns play their fi­nal game of the pre­sea­son Aug. 31 against for­mer Men­tor High School quar­ter­back Mitchell Tru­bisky and the Bears in Chicago. What hap­pens be­fore the game could be more sus­pense­ful than what hap­pens dur­ing it.

If the Browns have some­thing planned while the na­tional an­them is sung in Sol­dier Field prior to the 8 p.m. kick­off, they aren’t say­ing what it is.

About a dozen Browns play­ers held their own cer­e­mony dur­ing the na­tional an­them be­fore the pre­sea­son game against the Gi­ants on Aug. 21 at FirstEn­ergy Sta­dium. Some knelt in prayer while oth­ers showed their sup­port by rest­ing a hand on the shoul­der of a team­mate pray­ing.

Five nights later, about 30 Browns play­ers stood and locked arms in a show of sol­i­dar­ity while the na­tional an­them was per­formed be­fore the pre­sea­son game against the Buc­ca­neers in Tampa.

Play­ers have a right to protest. To the fans both­ered deeply by what some play­ers are do­ing: If it re­ally, truly of­fends you, re­mem­ber you have a right to protest, too. Protest with your wal­lets.

Tele­vi­sion rat­ings for NFL games last sea­son were re­port­edly down 8 per­cent. Sev­eral rea­sons are the­o­rized to have caused the de­cline, in­clud­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, con­cus­sions, over­sat­u­ra­tion — and Colin Kaeper­nick kneel­ing for the na­tional an­them.

This is paint­ing with a wide brush, I know, but many fans in­sulted by Kaeper­nick and other pro­test­ers ve­he­mently say they refuse to watch NFL games un­til the an­them protests end. Then they at­tend games or watch them on tele­vi­sion any­way.

Be­liev­ing in a cause but do­ing noth­ing about it won’t change any­thing. Kaeper­nick last year told NFL.com he would not “show pride in a flag for a coun­try that op­presses black peo­ple and peo­ple of color.”

Though it wasn’t his intention, Kaeper­nick has ap­par­ently sac­ri­ficed his foot­ball career for what he be­lieved was a just cause. On March 2 of this year, a week be­fore the start of free agency, he gave no­tice he would no longer sit or kneel for the na­tional an­them, ra­tio­nal­iz­ing what he did last year prompted other play­ers to fol­low his path — also, per­haps, ra­tio­nal­iz­ing (cor­rectly, it is turn­ing out) no owner or gen­eral man­ager wants the dis­trac­tion of hav­ing him on their team.

Kaeper­nick is bet­ter than most backup quar­ter­backs in the league — Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Ho­gan come to mind — but can’t get a job.

It would be a long, long process, but if an­gry fans stop at­tend­ing and watch­ing games, if gate re­ceipts and tele­vi­sion rev­enue to teams slide back­ward, the salary cap would shrink and that would hit play­ers where it hurts most — their bank ac­counts. Agents would get the mes­sage to their play­ers, and that would end the player protests.

As for the game with the Bears, Browns coach Hue Jack­son would pre­fer not to play it, but play it they must. The Browns are 3-0 in pre­sea­son and want to keep the mo­men­tum head­ing into the reg­u­lar sea­son opener Sept. 10 against the Steel­ers.

“There is no ques­tion we wish we could (play only three pre­sea­son games), but we get it,” Jack­son said. “This is a game that’s sched­uled. We have to play it. We’re go­ing to show up and play and our play­ers un­der­stand that. That’s the men­tal­ity that I want our team to have.”

Jack­son said he hasn’t de­cided whether start­ing quar­ter­back DeShone Kizer will play against the Bears or for that mat­ter how long the starters will play, if at all.

Jack­son is more in­ter­ested in de­ter­min­ing backup jobs at wide re­ceiver and the se­condary and find­ing a start­ing tight end among Seth DeValve, David Njoku and Ran­dall Telfer.

The fi­nal pre­sea­son game could also de­ter­mine the win­ner be­tween Cody Parkey and Zane Gon­za­lez for the kick­ing job be­fore ros­ters are cut to 53 on Sept. 2.

Schudel can be reached at jschudel@news-her­ald. com; on Twit­ter: @jsproins­der

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Browns play­ers lock arms dur­ing the play­ing of the na­tional an­them be­fore the pre­sea­son game against the Buc­ca­neers on Aug. 26 in Tampa, Fla.

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