Cleveland police, EMS unions won't hold flag for NFL's Browns after players kneel for anthem

Cleveland police and emergency services unions have declined an invitation from the NFL's Cleveland Browns to hold an American flag for the team's season opener after some Browns players knelt for the national anthem during a preseason game.

EMS union president Daniel Nemeth told Fox 8 Cleveland on Friday that the offer to participate in a pregame ceremony sounded great until a dozen Browns players refused to stand for the anthem, in support of free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, a former member of the San Francisco 49ers, started a firestorm last season when he decided to kneel for the playing of the anthem before games as a protest against mistreatment of blacks and other minorities in the U.S.

"This hit home with me. I am a veteran, an 8-year veteran with the U.S. Marine Corps. So, to disrespect the flag by taking a knee is not something I was going to be a part of," Nemeth said.

Steve Loomis, the Cleveland police union president, told the station his officers will not participate either.

“ … if the ownership of the Browns and the league are going to allow that type of stuff to happen, and then come to us and say, ‘We want you to help us with the flag,’ that’s hypocritical. We’re not gonna participate.”

The Browns organization has not commented on the decision by the unions to not hold the flag for the first game of the season, but has supported its players in their decision to sit out the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

“As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country’s national anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad,” the team said last month. “We feel it's important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression.”

The Browns are scheduled to open the NFL season Sept. 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ryan Gaydos is a homepage editor for Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.