Police clashing with protesters and reporters, fires, looting.
A nation in pain. Chaos everywhere.
Monday the Browns gathered on Zoom to try and make some sense of all that has followed the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers and reflect on their own personal experiences.
“Some of my best friends in life have been through some really, really tough situations with law enforcement, or just in general,” Browns left guard Joel Bitonio said Tuesday on a Zoom video conference call with reporters. “You try and listen and understand what they’re going through.
“I think people are hurting, though. I think there’s a real hurt and a real cry for help and they want people to listen to them and understand where they’re coming from.”
Head coach Kevin Stefanski, who spent 14 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings prior to being hired by the Browns in January, spoke with his team about what they can do to advance the cause of fighting against police brutality and the targeting of African Americans by law enforcement.
“Coach Stefanski gave us a list of different things that we can go about, and that’s just really just getting in our communities, going out and voting, not just presidential, not just nationwide, but locally,” Bitonio said. “What can we do locally to help? It’s going [out] and giving to the kids that need the help.
“I think hate is really truly taught throughout the world, and if you can get to younger kids and grow and show that we’re in this together, this is our one world and we can grow and be the best people and treat people with respect. That’s where we kind of got to start. You’ve got to start down low.”
Receiver Jarvis Landry also spoke to the virtual room of players and coaches.
“The conclusion we came to is obviously there’s injustice in this world right now and people are hurting,” Bitonio said. “People need help, and we’re going to try and use our power and our position to help them.
“Jarvis came up and he spoke to the team for maybe 10 minutes yesterday and just tried to tell us how we can use our platform a little bit better because I think the vast majority of people want to help. They want to improve the situation.”
Bitonio praised owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam for their work in the community as well as commitment to social justice.
On Monday, the Haslams released a joint statement that included Stefanski, EVP/GM Andrew Berry and the rest of the Browns and Columbus Crew ownership and management groups.
“These are complex issues that no sports team can solve on its own. We can only help create change by working together with our community, our players and our entire region to find solutions,” the statement said in part.
“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.”