CLEVELAND — Before Sunday’s practice at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield read a statement on behalf of the team over the video board regarding social justice, saying, “We believe it is the duty of every American to peacefully stand up, speak out, address injustice, especially those resulting from racial inequities and ending in violence.”
Immediately after the practice, Mayfield continued the conversation, telling reporters that he believes it’s important that Black players and coaches aren’t the only ones speaking up on those issues.
“That just shows that you’re in it with them. It’s not a separated or it’s not a one-sided movement,” said Mayfield, who has already vowed to kneel during the national anthem this season to protest racism and inequality. “I can’t put myself in their shoes for some of the inequalities that they have gone through and some of the things they have gone through, but I am trying to do the best I can by hearing their stories and sharing that. That’s the best part about it is hearing their stories so I can really start to feel their frustration and anger and push forward with them because that is what it’s about. It is about all trying to create change together and be that solution.”
Mayfield is one of 11 players on the Browns’ social justice leadership committee. Those players led team meetings beginning Thursday in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which led to the team shortening practice that day.
Sunday, Browns players released a lengthy statement, detailing the results of their conversations together, which include the goals of improving education, engaging in police reform and accountability, pursuing economic advancement of primarily Black communities and pushing for nonpartisan voter registration and turnout.
“We do not just want to make a statement just to make a statement,” Mayfield said over the Zoom call. “It’s not a PR stunt. It’s something that we have truly had deep discussions about how to create that change and how we are going to do it step-by-step. That’s something I’m passionate about. I’ve always believed when you can put stuff aside in the locker room, it’s how the world should work. You put every difference aside, every background, where you come from, shape, size and color and you put that all to the side, and you work towards the same goal. When it comes to real life, that’s just human rights. It’s an equal rights issue.
“I wanted my guys to know that. They do, but making a statement as the leader of this team is very important.”
Last week, the three pro sports franchises in Cleveland — the Browns, Cavaliers and Indians — announced they would be forming a sports alliance to develop a sustainable and direct strategy to address social injustice in Northeast Ohio.