The following article makes the case that Cleveland Browns Quarterback Baker Mayfield is making the correct choice to kneel on the ground when the U.S national anthem is played before the Browns play their game each week. The sentiments expressed belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Cleveland Sports Talk or any other individuals within the CST brand.
On July 13th, Baker Mayfield responded to a comment on Instagram. The commenter asked that Mayfield tell the Browns fans that he would not be kneeling for the national anthem in the 2020 season. He responded saying, “Pull your head out. I absolutely am.” He then followed up by posting to his Instagram, explaining his stance.
This has become national news, as Mayfield is the first white quarterback to announce that he will be kneeling for the anthem. This has led to a flood of both positive and negative reactions from fans. He added a video of him working out in a shirt that read, “I can’t breathe”, the now famous words of George Floyd as police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck, leading to his death.
Mayfield said, “It’s about equality as everybody being treated the same because we are all human…If I lose some fans that’s okay. I’ve always spoken my mind, and that’s from the heart.”
Mayfield is completely in the right here. After the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and just a few days ago, Rayshard Brooks, there have been protests across the country. Many African American NFL stars recorded a video speaking about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Below is a link to the video.
This has been an issue for a long time, though it has gained traction recently, and many more people are joining than ever before. There were 450 protests in major North American cities in May, which has been continued in June. These have been protests of an estimated 20,000 in Los Angeles and very large protests leading the National Guard to be called in Minneapolis.
The criticism that Mayfield is receiving is one of being disrespectful to the flag, not honoring our military, and being un-American. According to a survey by Yahoo News/YouGov, 36% of Americans do not believe that it is okay for players to kneel. In response to a Twitter post by Cleveland Sports Talk, most people who believe that Mayfield should not kneel state their reasoning as being disrespectful to the flag and too the military. There are a small subset that seem to believe that Mayfield is just joining to preserve his image, but based on the responses, roughly one third believe Mayfield is disrespecting the country. However, the flag stands for many things, one of which is the freedom of speech. It also stands for the right to peacefully assemble. Mayfield is not breaking any laws, he’s using his rights. The rights that he or any other American has.
Mayfield is continuing Colin Kaepernick’s stance, one that cost him his career. This shows the change that has started. It would have been unheard of for a white quarterback to kneel five years ago. That has now changed.
There have also been people who say that they do not want to go to or watch any Browns games any more. The Cleveland Sports Talk Twitter account posted on Twitter, asking for people’s opinions on Mayfield kneeling.
@DebbieCornbintoo said “@bakermayfield I watched and cheered for you your entire career with the Sooners. I even took up for you when you behaved poorly at Kansas. If you kneel you will have one fewer fan. It’s not much but it’s my country and my flag. My son and father risked their life for that flag.”
@tdistelz added, “I’VE BEEN A BROWNS FAN MY ENTIRE LIFE. I WILL NOT GO TO ANY GAMES OR WATCH ANY BROWNS GAMES. I WILL BURN ALL MY BROWNS ATTIRE.”
There are many more comments, and viewing the CST account on Twitter would afford easy access to any and all of them. The commenters can choose to make these remarks, as it’s a free country. However, Mayfield is just using the benefit of living in a free country. For those that still don’t want to watch Browns’ games any more, that’s okay, but that means that they are protesting Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and everyone else who is kneeling. They are protesting their right to the first amendment.