The Cleveland Browns and Columbus Crew, both owned by Dee and Jimmy Haslam, want sports to effect change in the country and acknowledged the organizations can do more to promote justice and equality throughout society.
“Sports can be a great unifier in our communities for what teams do on the field and we must work together to elevate our efforts and our actions to ensure that we can be a positive and productive change agent off the field,” the Haslams wrote in a statement Monday that included key members of the organizations as authors. “With yet more tragic deaths, we, as a nation and as individuals, must truly create meaningful dialogue, have difficult conversation, demonstrate real empathy and take productive and non-violent action to address injustices.”
Browns executive vice president JW Johnson and wife Whitney — the Haslams’ daughter — general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski were listed on the statement, along with Crew investor/operator Dr. Peter Edwards, GM Tim Bezbatchenko and coach Caleb Porter.
The statement came a week after the death of George Floyd, a black man, on May 25 when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Protests and riots followed across the country over the weekend, including in Cleveland, where the city remained under a curfew Monday.
“These are complex issues that no sports team can solve on its own,” the statement continued. “We can only help create change by working together with our community, our players and our entire region to find solutions.
“We take great pride in our city and in our region and recognize the suffering in the African American community throughout the country. Although, we, like many others have worked to advocate for social justice, now more than ever, we must do even more to work collectively to end racism and bond together for justice and equality.”
Browns players have been posting essays and comments on social media since Thursday. The anger, pain and frustration haven’t dissipated.
“Leader Of The Free World?? 2 Things It ain’t freedom and We don’t have a leader!!!” receiver Jarvis Landry tweeted Monday, apparently taking issue with President Donald Trump. “M*** (I ain’t even saying those words) isn’t about unity, it’s about maintaining the division of our Nation. I see one of the World’s Biggest Oppessors Unfiltered and Out Of Control”
He added emojis of an American flag and two broken hearts.
Leader Of The Free World?? 2 Things
It ain’t freedom and We don’t have a leader!!!
M*** (I ain’t even saying those words) isn’t about unity, it’s about maintaining the division of our Nation. I see one of the World’s Biggest Oppessors Unfiltered and Out Of Control #🇺🇸💔💔
— Jarvis Juice Landry (@God_Son80) June 1, 2020
In 2017 Trump called NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem in protest of social injustice and police brutality “sons of bitches,” sparking outrage across the league.
Earlier Monday Landry had tweeted: “You playing the backseat in this generation, that your kids will have to face in theirs!!! IF THAT DONT MATTER TO YOU THAN WHO ARE YOU?”
A fan replied, suggesting the return of sports could ease tensions. The sports world has largely been shut down for more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Honestly it’s bigger than sports,” Landry replied. “The beauty of sports is that it brings together so many people of different backgrounds, races etc. However what we are facing is a 100+ year problem we all have avoided and/or ignored.. OUR KIDS MUST HAVE A BETTER FUTURE, A SAFE AND FAIR FUTURE”
Fellow receiver and best friend Odell Beckham Jr. chimed in.
“Continue to divide us and not unify,” he tweeted. “We’re tryna unify an entire nation, which we are far far from, but that’s the only thing that bothers me . The if u don’t speak up or ur silent ur against us etc. for me it’s a tough position actually a lose lose lose.”
Continue to divide us and not unify. We’re tryna unify an entire nation, which we are far far from, but that’s the only thing that bothers me . The if u don’t speak up or ur silent ur against us etc. for me it’s a tough position actually a lose lose lose.
— Odell Beckham Jr (@obj) June 1, 2020
Beckham called for justice and peace Saturday.
“IM FRUSTRATED. More so because I don’t even kno how to speak or comment on this issue that’s been goin on for so long,” he tweeted. “I hate feeling defeated as if the words I wanna say [email protected] be enough to stop what’s goin on. I’m Tired. People are losing brothers sisters daughters
“Losing fathers mothers aunties uncles etc…. VIOLENCE isn’t not the answer … cops killing us is not the answer, us killin cops is not the answer. VIOLENCE WILL ONLY BRING MORE VIOLENCE
“God …. I’m praying that u can place your healin hand of grace upon this world . We NEED u right now more than ever. This has gotta end. Enough is enough. It’s that time”
Center JC Tretter encouraged others to break their silence and speak out against racism and injustice, defensive end Myles Garrett supported peaceful protests and quarterback Baker Mayfield called for reform.
“Let’s ALL be part of the change – NOW!” Mayfield posted on Instagram. “#UntilWeALLWin”