The Cleveland Browns are coming to Tampa for the first game played in Raymond James this preseason, and anthem protests are likely coming with them.
Joining several players around the league, 12 members of the Browns took a knee during the anthem of their last game against the New York Giants. Amongst the players kneeling was the first white player to do so since Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest last year, tight end Seth DeValve. A handful of other players stood in solidarity with their hands on kneeling players’ backs.
National anthem protests have become somewhat common in the NFL since former 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s original protest last season. Kaepernick still finds himself without a job and many feel that this is solely because of his demonstrations last year, and not because of his on field production. On Wednesday over a thousand protesters gathered outside the NFL offices in support of Kaepernick, many donning his jersey. Along with the protesters, the NAACP has been supportive of Kaepernick, calling for a meeting with the NFL to discuss the issue.
As if the case with the entire nation, social issues have been a topic of discussion amongst Buccaneers players and coaches this week in camp. There was a team meeting earlier this week that was held to discuss the anthem and the social issues in the United States today. The meeting was opened up, allowing both players and coaches to voice their opinions and anything on their minds regarding protests and social issues.
Head coach Dirk Koetter was tight lipped when discussing the specifics of the closed meeting.
“We did talk about that yesterday in our team meeting,” Koetter said. “I hope everyone can appreciate that there are some things that need to be said behind closed doors, and the players have to feel free to be able to speak their minds sometimes without any threat of repercussions. The main thing that came out of that meeting from my side, representing the coaches and the organization and the players, is that we have to respect each other’s opinion even if we don’t agree with it. I hope by the same token, everyone here can respect why I don’t need to…it’s not in our benefit. This is a nationwide and a worldwide issue. We’re not going to solve it in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team meeting. For me to come out here and say everything that was said, that’s not the point. But we did talk about.”
Dirk Koetter has made it a point to lend his ear to all opinions, whether they agree with his views or not, and won’t hold the opinions of his players against them.
“My personal view is on record,” Koetter said. “My personal view is, I’ll be standing on the 50-yard line with my hand over my heart. That’s what I believe in. We have plenty of guys that believe in that but, again, we’re not all the same. We don’t all come from the same place. We don’t all have the same background. We have to respect every man’s opinion.”
Veteran defensive tackle Clinton McDonald is far from a controversial figure and prefers to focus on his play on the field. McDonald’s mentality and focus is what has earned him a Super Bowl ring and kept him on NFL rosters, despite being a seventh round pick.
However, McDonald realizes the importance of recognizing social issues and appreciates Koetter’s respect for his players.
“When you are in the NFL your main objective is to go out there and hit, run, make tackles, score touchdowns and get sacks,” McDonald said. “For him to open up the floor on social issues was him showing his personal side. He is a human being as well as a coach and has a sensitive side to the issues that are going on. He allows us to have a voice and have a thought about it, which is probably more than a lot of coaches would have done. I think coach Koetter is a good coach and a good man as well.”
While the state of racial relations will likely not be solved in a Buccaneers team meeting, it could be an important factor in bringing the team closer together. Teams rely on players being on the same page and that is hard to do if they do not respect each other. It remains to be seen if any Buccaneers will choose to take a knee Saturday night, but McDonald believes that despite whatever differences in opinions players may have, having open discussions about issues off the field is vital to the team’s success.
“It definitely does bring us closer together,” McDonald said. “When guys open their mouths and talk about things that are on their hearts, especially when it is key guys, they are talking and educating guys that are listening to what is going on, as well as educating themselves by listening. It always brings about a cohesiveness of the guys and how they feel. I felt the same way, it brings guys together. It makes them feel like, ‘you know what? We are a much tighter unit because everybody has the same feeling.”
– Article by PewterReport.com’s Austin DeWitt