About three-dozen Donald Trump supporters gathered just south of FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday to stage a counter-protest to NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem.
Some NFL players, led by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, began kneeling last year during the National Anthem to call attention to police treatment of black people. President Trump criticized the protests as "disrespectful to our country," adding more fuel to a fight between the league and its players.
The rally, organized by the group Ohio Citizens For Trump, took place in Fort Huntington Park before the game. Charlie Calanni from Cleveland was among the protestors, and says politics should be left out of the NFL.
“People keep saying that this is their First Amendment right,” Calanni says. “They’re at work; they’re employees. If they want to come out the rest of the year - when they’re not playing football, when they’re not getting paid millions of dollars to play a children’s game - they’re more than welcome.”
Tony Lewis, a veteran, was walking by the protest. He disagrees, saying he fought so that both Charlie Calanni and NFL players would have the right to protest.
“I served the people to have the right to do what you want to do in America,” Lewis says. “To support what you want to support. Whether it’s right or wrong in your eyes, you have the right of freedom to believe what you want to believe.”
Organizers say they don’t know whether they’ll be at future Browns home games.
The Browns tied the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-21, their best season opener since 2004.