“People are hurting”

Joel Bitonio says it’s time for others to listen

“People are hurting”

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Browns are no strangers to showing support for social change. In 2017, many of 'em gathered and knelt during the National Anthem.

Three years later, there's an even greater need for people to act. But Joel Bitonio says, it's not about talking. Too many are doing that.

It's about listening.

"No one has the complete answer, or there'd be no racism in our country," Bitonio said during a zoom meeting with reporters on Tuesday. "We have to find a way to get rid of it."

And here is where athletes, and owners, can use their platforms and power to lead to serious change.

Think about it. During the season, Bitonio spends most of his life in a locker room that is predominantly black. Then, at the end of each day, guys go their separate ways. I asked him how he gauges that dynamic, and really understands what some of his teammates go through.

"You try to listen," Bitonio told me. "Really understand where they're going. Some of my best friends in life have been through some really, really tough situations. With law enforcement, or just in general. You try and listen. I think people are hurting, and there's a real hurt and a real cry for help. They want people to listen to them and understand where they're coming from."

Bitonio praised the Haslams for their willingness to listen. And he expects owners and players to continue to be engaged, and lead, during the season.

“If we get back to regular football and have a season, I think players are gonna use their platform, which they should,” Bitonio said. “Kids listen.If you start the younger generation and you teach them to love each other, and to have that compassion and empathy for other people, I think that’s where it grows in this country.”

Copyright 2020 WOIO. All rights reserved.