On Saturday, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield posted a video to his Instagram in which he can be seen training while wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt with the phrase “I Can’t Breathe” written on the front.
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One commenter wrote: “Please tell Browns fans you’re not going to be kneeling this season.”
“Pull your head out. I absolutely am,” Mayfield replied, as noted by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
In an Instagram story, the quarterback expanded on his thoughts:
Everybody so upset about my comment doesn’t understand the reasoning behind kneeling in the first place. Nate and Kap came to an agreement that kneeling was the most respectful way to support our military while also standing up for equality. I have the utmost respect for our military, cops, and people that serve our country. It’s about equality and everybody being treated the same because we’re all human. It’s been ignored for too long and that is my fault as well for not becoming more educated and staying silent. If I lose fans, that’s okay. I’ve always spoken my mind. And that’s from the heart.
The “Nate” Mayfield referenced is Green Beret Nate Boyer, who “came to an agreement” with former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick to kneel rather than sit during the national anthem.
Mayfield’s remarks have gotten some blowback, but also support.
One user commented: “Baker will you also kneel and honor the good law enforcement officers out there who are murdered while trying to protect their citizens of the communities they work for???”
Another user wrote: “I’m proud of you Baker! I’m a disabled veteran after spending 9 years active duty Air Force. I gave my blood, sweat and tears for ALL Americans. The only color I see is red, white, and blue! I know we have a long way to go as Americans and quite frankly human beings. I believe we will. Thanks to you and everyone else with a voice and platform to use for positive change. I do not feel disrespected by anyone kneeling for positive change. Neither should any veteran or active duty military. This should just be another battle or war on racism that we as Americans will come together and defeat another evil enemy!!”
Mayfield joins Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who tweeted back at a user on Saturday who claimed that Watt likely wouldn’t be kneeling.
A) don’t speak for me
B) if you still think it’s about disrespecting the flag or our military, you clearly haven’t been listening https://t.co/tnsEq5D9WC
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) June 13, 2020
Following the death of 46-year-old African American man George Floyd, who was killed after a Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground for nearly nine minutes, protests have erupted across the nation.
These social justice protests have brought back into the conversation the idea of sports figures kneeling during the national anthem, which was initiated by Colin Kaepenick in 2016.
Others have been drawn into the kneeling conversation as well.
After facing backlash in early June for saying he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees pulled back, and issued a statement pertaining to “systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial [and] prison reform.”
Additionally, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently released a video in which he states that “the National Football League believe black lives matter.”
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