YOUNGSTOWN, OH (WOIO) - It was a silent protest that has made a big noise across the country.
"The National Anthem is 2 minutes. Stand! Really. People have given their lives," said Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene.
Nearly a dozen Browns players knelt in a circle and prayed in silent protest during the anthem before a preseason home game August 21.
"You have a right to protest wherever you want. I'm all for legal protest. I draw the line here," Greene said.
Greene is drawing the line, and pulling his deputies.
"I'm just making a little bit of a stand here, that's all."
Deputies will no longer be able to work security at browns games.
"I just think it stinks they did it," Greene said.
The Sheriff says he was already concerned about the liability issue of having his deputies travel to Cleveland to work security for the games. He says the protest was the straw that broke the camel's back.
"I was very angered by it. I don't think it was right. This is not an issue of race or police. This is an issue about the American flag and our veterans," Greene explained.
He says the 15-20 deputies who were working security at the Browns games have been supportive of his decision to end the practice. He says he's largely had positive feedback from community members as well.
"One deputy even says he stands a little taller in his shoes now after I made that decision."
Sheriff Greene told the Browns on August 22, he says to make sure they had enough time to replace his deputies with other security guards.
The Sheriff isn't the first to pull his officers since the protest.
The President of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association says officers and paramedics won't hold a large U.S flag during pregame ceremonies prior to Sunday's Browns season opener.
Cleveland's NAACP released the following statement concerning the issue:
The gap between the Cleveland Division of Police and the community that they are sworn to "serve and protect" seems to be growing ever wider. The Constitution provides all Americans with fundamental, first Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression. Disagreements often arise as to how far that right should be extended to cover certain types of speech, but it is that fundamental right that provided the platform in Charlottesville. Even in the face of racist, and devise rhetoric, we saw police in uniform protecting free speech. We all witnessed the action of various white supremacists in the support and retention of various monuments, artifacts and statutes promoting the institution of slavery, segregation and the suppression of basic human rights. We also witnessed the counter-demonstrations in which people showed the world that they would oppose all attempts to return to a time and place where segregation, discrimination and separate and unequal opportunities was legally permissible and in many cases, statutorily required.
For more than a year, professional athletes in all the major sports are increasingly demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the injustices that have been perpetrated against minorities. The most obvious demonstrations involve refusing to stand for the presentation of the American flag. This Colin Kaeperrnick phenomenon is well within their constitutional right and, despite the dissatisfaction by some members of the public, no one should object to their right to demonstrate and draw attention to injustices perpetrated under the guise of freedom. Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. all chose to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo by demonstrating and as a result, inspired other patriots to challenge social and economic injustices. America became a stronger nation because of their actions and, with the wisdom of hindsight; we can now appreciate the sacrifices they made in the name of equality.
History will be the ultimate judge of the significance that the kneeling Cleveland Browns players have in the fight for social justice. However, in the present day it is refreshing to know that they are willing to jeopardize their careers by emphasizing the injustices that we all know are rampant in communities of color, including in the City of Cleveland. We should not forget that it was a brief time ago that the United States Department of Justice found that Cleveland police had engaged in a pattern or practice of using unconstitutional and excessive force against people who live, work and play in the City. The Division of Police were determined to be the culprits and the federal court became involved in an attempt to effect meaningful change. Against this backdrop, it is disconcerting that the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association has chosen to demonstrate against the Cleveland Browns demonstrators by refusing to participate in the flag ceremony during the Browns' home opener.
Obviously, the CPPA is not the Cleveland Division of Police and does not represent the views of all the police who are employed by the City of Cleveland. Hopefully, some of the more enlightened policemen know and appreciate the fact that the actions of the CPPA leadership have cast another shadow on the relationship between the police and the community. The NAACP understands and supports the right of all persons, including professional athletes to demonstrate in an attempt to expose the injustices that exist in our country. Similarly, while the NAACP would support the right of the CPPA to engage in whatever counter-demonstration they feel is appropriate, we would hope that they would understand that their actions in refusing to present
the flag as a counter-demonstration to these professional athletes are, at best, divisive and, at worse another sign that there still exists a significant cultural gap between the police and the minority community. The people of Cleveland deserve better and the CPPA should lead by example instead of fanning the flames of racial division.