The Browns have become the first NFL franchise to issue a joint statement in response to recent societal unrest. They did so with the Columbus Crew, an MLS franchise partially owned by Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam. The full statement appears below.
“Sports can be a great unifier in our communities for what teams do on the field and we must work together to elevate our efforts and our actions to ensure that we can be a positive and productive change agent off the field.
“With yet more tragic deaths, we, as a nation and as individuals, must truly create meaningful dialogue, have difficult conversation, demonstrate real empathy and take productive and non-violent action to address injustices.
“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 solution.
“We take great pride in our city and in our region and recognize the suffering in the African American community thought the country. Although, we, like many others have 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.”
The statement is attributed to Browns/Crew owners Jimmy Haslam, Dee Haslam, Whitney Haslam Johnson, and JW Johnson, Browns G.M. Andrew Berry, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, Crew investor Dr. Peter Edwards, Crew president and G.M. Tim Bezbatchenko, and Crew coach Caleb Porter.
On one hand, the Browns, the Crew, and the nine people who attached their names to the Browns/Crew joint statement deserve credit for speaking out at a time when plenty of teams, owners, General Managers, and coaches haven’t. On the other hand, did any of these nine people realize that this specific statement doesn’t state anything beyond the obvious?
There’s no mention of those whose deaths (murders) sparked current unrest. There’s no mention of the role of police brutality in this issue. There’s no specific commitment or call to action. And the statement contains what can best be described of the greatest understatement of all time, in sports and arguably beyond sports: “These are complex issues that no sports team can solve on its own.”
Given the strong, plain, and clear statements made by people like Dolphins coach Brian Flores, Raiders owner Mark Davis, and Colts coach Frank Reich, here’s a suggestion for all other teams, owners, General Managers, coaches, and any other sports or non-sports entity or figure to consider when crafting a potential statement on these issues: If the statement ultimately says nothing, should we just not issue any statement at all?