Myles Garrett among those who kneel during national anthem protest

Marla Ridenour and George M. Thomas
Akron Beacon Journal
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) celebrates with cornerback Tavierre Thomas (20) after recovering a fumble during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 13.

On Friday, defensive end Myles Garrett said the Browns had not decided what they would do to take a stance on racial injustice and police brutality, but Garrett said they would do it together.

But the Browns’ actions Sunday in M&T Bank Stadium sent a mixed message. The Browns remained in the locker room for the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black national anthem, then came out onto the sideline for the national anthem.

The Baltimore Ravens stood in the end zone for the Black anthem, then moved to the sideline.

"We didn’t know about it, so we weren’t able to come out for it,“ Garrett said of the Browns not coming out for the Black national anthem.

Garrett, receiver KhaDarel Hodge and safety Ronnie Harrison knelt during the national anthem, as did multiple members of the Ravens. Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. took a knee in the corner of the end zone after the anthem.

Garrett said kneeling was just a message.

“No disrespect to anybody who served or anybody who’s in law enforcement or is serving right now,” he said. “Anybody who’s served before that I’ve known, I don’t think they’ve taken it as a disrespectful thing and it’s not that. If we continue to do the same thing or we switch it up, that’s something we’ll worry about next week.

“My decision to do that has no bearing on my game or it doesn’t bear on my conscience, either. After that’s done, I’m in game mode.”

CBS went on the air early for its regional broadcast in order to provide coverage of the anthems.

Some members of the Browns locked arms — including quarterback Baker Mayfield flanked by Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson — as the teams recognized issues raised by the Memorial Day death of George Floyd. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the protest of those causes in 2016.

Among the Ravens who took a knee were running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram, cornerback Anthony Averett, linebacker Malik Harrison, defensive tackle Justin Ellis and star defensive end Calais Campbell.

“I’m going to respect all of my teammates’ decisions,” Mayfield said. “We talked about it, we had discussions and we’re on the same page. We’re in this together in showing solidarity to try and unite instead of divide. It doesn’t matter what decision any of our teammates make, that’s just what I personally said and the way I wanted to say it.

The name I had on the back of my helmet, Julius Jones. A very sad story, a guy who’s wrongly incarcerated in the state of Oklahoma. I tried to represent him today for “Justice for Julius.” I hope I spread that message and I will continue to do so.“

As shown on ESPN, Beckham and Mayfield were among the Browns who came out for warmups wearing a black T-shirt that read #BeTheSolution with a Browns helmet beside the lettering. The message was the title of the team’s social justice initiative launched by General Manager Andrew Berry in June.

Berry is one of two Black GMs in the league this year, along with the Miami Dolphins’ Chris Grier.

The Browns also wore decals on the back of the helmets with the names of victims of racial violence and police brutality.

The back of the shirt included names of Black victims who have become symbols in the fight to end systemic racism, including Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Emmitt Till, Elijah McClain, Kalief Browder, George Stinney, Stephon Clark, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, who lived in Cleveland.

Also listed were John Sanders, blinded in one eye when he was shot by law enforcement as he walked away from a Black Lives Matter protest in Cleveland on May 30, and Julius Jones, a Black man on death row in Oklahoma who alleges he was unjustly accused of murder. Mayfield is among the prominent athletes who have written letters to Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt in support of Jones’ request for clemency.

The names on the Browns’ shirts were printed in white, with Black Lives Matter, Stop Hate, It Takes All Of Us and End Racism in orange.

On Saturday, Mayfield posted a statement on Twitter and Instagram that he had reversed his decision to kneel for the national anthem.

Mayfield wrote on social media that he believed that action, which he had pledged to take on June 13, would “only create more division or discussion about the gesture, rather than be a solution towards our country’s problems.”

The quarterback’s initial remarks came in the wake of Floyd’s death as a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on the Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Mayfield said in his Instagram post that he realized he might lose fans over his stance.

“Right is right, and wrong is wrong. There’s a human rights issue that’s been going on for a long time, and I believe in that,” Mayfield said then.

New Browns coach Kevin Stefanski formed an 11-player social justice committee that includes Mayfield and Garrett.

One of those wrinkles

Stefanski said he would have a couple of wrinkles for the Ravens this week and one showed up in the first quarter when punter Jamie Gillan, a former rugby player, took the snap on fourth-and-four from the Browns 31 and ran with the ball, only to have it knocked from his hands by L.J. Fort. Anthony Levine recovered the fumble and returned it to the Browns 27. It eventually led to a Ravens field goal and a 10-0 lead.

– George M. Thomas

Kicking issues

Kicker Austin Seibert got off to a rough start of the season on the Browns first scoring drive with the team looking to cut into the Ravens 10-0 lead. After a TD pass from Mayfield to tight end David Njoku, Seibert hit the upright on the extra point. Seibert made 31-of-35 extra points in his rookie season.

He compounded the problem with 49 seconds left in the first half when he missed a 41-yard field goal wide right. The Browns do have kicker Cody Parkey on their practice squad.

– George M. Thomas

Ignominious start

After what looked to be a promising start to an opening drive, Mayfield was victimized by a familiar foe from last season – the turnover. Only this time it came courtesy of outstanding play from Ravens defensive lineman Calais Campbell. Campbell, 6-foot-8, 300 pounds, dropped back in coverage on a third-and-10 and got his hand on a Mayfield pass and tipped it, allowing Ravens defensive back Marlon Humphrey to come up with the interception. Last year, Mayfield threw 21 interceptions.

– George M. Thomas

Inactives, lineup changes

Center JC Tretter started his 49th consecutive game for the Browns despite undergoing knee surgery on Aug. 13, sitting out all training camp practices and being listed as questionable to face the Ravens.

Browns players who were inactive are cornerback Greedy Williams (shoulder), linebacker Mack Wilson (knee), nickelback Kevin Johnson (liver), offensive tackle Chris Hubbard (ankle), rookie wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and defensive end Joe Jackson.

Terrance Mitchell started in place of Williams. Rookie third-round draft pick Jacob Phillips started in place of Wilson at weakside linebacker.

Like Tretter, nickelback M.J. Stewart (hamstring) was active for the Browns after being listed as questionable.

— Nate Ulrich