During a preseason football game against the New York Giants last month, roughly a dozen players for the Cleveland Browns participated in a silent act of protest during the national anthem, joining the growing movement started by Colin Kaepernick to bring attention to police violence toward the black community.
Cleveland’s protest wasn’t the biggest or the flashiest, but it was notable because it marked the first time a white NFL player knelt during the anthem. Though some in Cleveland’s front office and on the coaching staff expressed their disagreement with the decision to protest, they supported their players’ right to express their opinions.
That sentiment was apparently not shared by the Cleveland police union. On Friday, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis told Cleveland.com that his members would not participate in the flag ceremony scheduled for the Browns’ season opener on September 10.
Yes, Loomis is calling upon his members to boycott a national anthem ceremony as a form of protest against football players who are boycotting a national anthem ceremony as a form of protest.
“The players not standing for the national anthem is offensive because of the sacrifices that people make that allows these guys to enjoy the success that they have,” Loomis said, according to Cleveland.com. “While they’re benefiting from protection of the flag, they are kneeling in disrespect of it.”
That argument is a familiar one often made by critics of the protests, which are entering their second season since Kaepernick first took a knee during the preseason in 2016. But it rings hollow coming from Loomis, a man who faced an internal investigation after he wore official police garb to a campaign rally with Donald Trump last year. Under Loomis’ direction and over the strong objection of minority officers, the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association endorsed Trump’s candidacy during the general election, the first time their union has ever publicly endorsed a presidential candidate.
Loomis is no stranger to the debate over police brutality. After Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback were disciplined by the city for their role in the 2014 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Loomis continued to defend both officers and insisted they did nothing wrong when they shot an unarmed middle schooler outside a city recreation center two seconds after they arrived on the scene. To recap, Loomis believes police shooting innocent 12-year-old black boys is defensible, but kneeling during the national anthem is beyond the pale.
For its part, the police department itself — a city agency separate from the union representing officers — says it does not agree with Loomis’ boycott, and that officers may very well participate in pregame ceremonies despite the CPPA’s absence.