Be The Solution | Cleveland Browns - clevelandbrowns.com
Andrew Berry invites you to #BeTheSolution
Browns EVP of Football Operations and GM provides an opportunity to turn words into action in the fight against racial injustice.
How an email to Browns staff from Andrew Berry turned into something much bigger
The moment was bigger than football — so much bigger — and Andrew Berry felt it.
As the days unfolded following the tragic death of George Floyd, and protests spread from coast to coast and across the globe, the Browns EVP of Football Operations and GM couldn't shake it. He knew, too, that those closest to him — his "Browns family" — likely were harboring similar feelings.
So, on the morning of June 5, Berry reached out to all Browns employees with a lengthy email. Ultimately, it would serve as the inspiration for a call to action that now includes all Browns fans through the team's #BeTheSolution campaign, which launched Wednesday.
"It's been a very encouraging response," Berry said. "It's something that, if scaled appropriately, I think we could actually make real change in our society."
Berry's email started with a message of empathy and sympathy to those who have struggled to focus on the day-to-day not only because of what was transpiring in the wake of Floyd's death, but also the recent tragedies involving Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — two young African-Americans whose lives were unnecessarily taken in unfathomable fashion.
"On a personal level, I've cycled through feelings of frustration, anger, despondency and — yes — even hope throughout the week," Berry wrote. "I'm the father of two black boys and I'm most thankful that they are young enough to maintain their innocence.
"Whether you are empathetic or sympathetic, let's take some time to not ignore the obvious ... this is not 'business as usual.'"
Berry's hope only grew from what happened next.
Berry closed his email with a challenge. He would donate $8,460 in honor of George Floyd and other recent victims to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund if at least 50 employees did one of the following:
1. Spend at least 8 minutes and 46 seconds (in honor of Floyd) on one of a number of educational or dialogue items provided in the email and submit a short written or video reflection on what they learned or will do moving forward
2. Sign up for any social activism initiative
3. Donate anything to a social activism cause
Within 24 hours, more than 50 employees had taken the challenge. Shortly thereafter, the Haslam family pledged to match every dollar raised and contributed to the organizations of the employees' choice. As of Monday, Browns staff has raised $185,522.74 for 14 different charities.
Now, those resources are being made available outside of the Browns' organization to anyone that would like to do their part to Be The Solution.
"We are a family. We're in this for one reason," Berry said. "We realize what's right, and there are some things that are more important than football. I think too many times organizations can be tone deaf to those dynamics. This is one of those moments where our focus can't be only or solely what goes on between those white lines. There are just bigger societal issues at play.
"NFL teams, in general, have such an influence on their communities that if we can't be at the front of the pack on some of these issues that impact all of us, then shame on us."
Browns players and coaches have taken Berry's message to heart and put words into action.
During a virtual team meeting, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski urged his players to "get in the arena" and use their unique platform to help bring real change to the fight against racial injustice. When Floyd was memorialized at a funeral in his native Houston, Stefanski gave the team the day off so they could pay their respects. Stefanski and a number of coaches and executives used that time to visit the memorial of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old, African-American boy who was shot and killed by two Cleveland police officers in Nov. 2014.
"I think what Andrew did was outstanding," said Stefanski, who also attended a protest in Avon with his sons and mother. "It's a message we've constantly been harping on is being about action and Andrew very specifically was about things we can do, things we can educate ourselves with. It was really a challenge to all of us. This has been a stark reminder of how we can affect positive change and anything I can do to help our players do that, I'm going to do."
From Bill Wills and Marion Motley — who helped break football's color barrier in 1946 — to Hall of Famer Jim Brown — who has devoted his post-playing years to fighting racial injustice — to Andrew Hawkins — who wore a shirt that sought justice for Rice and John Crawford III over top of his jersey before a 2014 game — the Browns have entered "the arena" on plenty of occasions throughout their storied history.
"It's been great that people in the public have been able to see there is a problem with race in our country. It's been good to see that people are expressing outrage, anger, condemnation," Berry said. "I also think it's important that this moment in history and this moment in time, that emotion is channeled into action that can advance the ball."
In recent years, social justice initiatives have become a major off-field priority for the franchise, which has seen players participate in ride-alongs with police officers, engage in summits that brought citizens and city officials together for important dialogue and donate their time and money to local causes. Dee and Jimmy Haslam and a core group of Browns executives regularly meet with players to discuss and coordinate community engagement opportunities with organizations and in areas supporting social justice where players wish to make an impact. Through those discussions, Browns players identified wanting to support police-community relations, including through local Neighborhood Equality & Unity Summit discussions and collaborative visits to Cleveland Recreation Centers; addressing recidivism and creating job opportunities; and providing educational resources to students in need.
In Dec. 2019, Browns players celebrated the start of Breaking New Ground's first home renovation with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM), the recent beneficiary of a $100,000 team contribution as a reflection of the NFL's Inspire Change movement. In May 2019, seven Browns players visited a local courthouse and jail as part of a Listen and Learn tour to get a closer look at how the justice system operates. The team also donated $75,000 apiece to EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute, which gives formerly incarcerated adults a foundation in the culinary/hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary to their long-term success, and Bloom Bakery, which supplies training and resources and assists in securing jobs for individuals who have been incarcerated. The Browns and Browns players have also made additional contributions to City of Cleveland recreation centers to help create more opportunities for youth to learn and play in their own community. Since 2016, the Haslams have funded the installation of synthetic turf fields at nine locations across Northeast Ohio.
Dee Haslam is also a member of the NFL's player-owner social justice committee, which was established in December 2017 with the focus of supporting programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity with a priority on supporting improvements in education and economic development, community and police relations and the criminal justice system.
Progress has been made, but it hasn't been nearly enough. That's why Berry hit "send" on an email that quickly became something much, much bigger.
Organizations and Charities
Bail Project, Inc.
A non-profit organization designed to combat mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system — one person at a time. We believe that paying bail for someone in need is an act of resistance against a system that criminalizes race and poverty and an act of solidarity with local communities and movements for decarceration.
*The Bail Project is a partner with Legal Aid
Learn more here: https://bailproject.org/
Black Lives Matter/Black Lives Matter Cleveland
Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.
Black Voters Matter Fund
Their goal is to Increase power in our communities and effective voting allows a community to determine its own destiny.
Learn more here: https://www.blackvotersmatterfund.org
Campaign Zero & #8cantwait
Funds donated to Campaign Zero support the data-driven analysis of policing practices across the country, research to identify effective solutions to end police violence, technical assistance to organizers leading police accountability campaigns and the development of model legislation and advocacy to end police violence nationwide. Campaign Zero recently went live with the #8cantwait Campaign, which focuses on 8 specific policies to reduce police violence.
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.
Learn more here: http://clevelandnaacp.org/
Diversity Center of Cleveland
Their mission – "to eliminate bias bigotry and racism" remains the same, as do our programs, operations and governance structure. Today, through their School & Youth Programming, SHIFT Consulting, and LeadDIVERSITY we strive to reach toward our vision of creating communities where all people are connected, respected, and valued.
Learn more here: http://www.diversitycenterneo.org/about-us/
Located in Shaker Heights, this restaurant has a purpose: We give formerly incarcerated adults a foundation in the culinary and hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary their long-term success.
Learn more here: https://edwinsrestaurant.org/
George Floyd Memorial Fund
This fund is established to cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings, and to assist our family in the days to come as we continue to seek justice for George. A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund. Goal $1.5M, as of 6/4 at $12M.
Learn more here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
Secures justice and resolves fundamental problems for those who are low income and vulnerable by providing high quality legal services.
Learn more here: https://lasclev.org/donationform/
Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM)
LMM seeks that people who are oppressed, forgotten, and hurting be empowered, valued, and healed by our unwavering commitment to addressing chronic needs, enabling people to self-sufficiency, and advocating for system change. As a catalyst and convener for meaningful conversation, LMM seeks to change the social, political, and religious conversation about justice from one of limitations to one of possibilities.
Learn more here: https://www.lutheranmetro.org/
Towards Employment is a proven leader in workforce development that connects people to careers, which changes people's lives, advances business, and strengthens community in Northeast Ohio. Our mission is to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment.
Learn more here: https://www.towardsemployment.org/
Urban League of Greater Cleveland
The mission of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland is dedicated to providing equal opportunities for African-Americans and other minority members to develop and exercise their potential on par with all other Americans through education, research, advocacy and provision of services.
Suggested Books, Movies & Dialogue
by Toni Morrison
Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Miner's Canary
by Lani Guiner and Gerald Torres
Possessive Investment In Whiteness
by George Lipsitz
This Bridge Called My Back
edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism
by bell hooks
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf
by Ntozake Shange
Assata: An Autobiography
by Assata Shakur
A Taste of Power
by Elaine Brown
by Audre Lorde
A People's History of the United States
by Howard Zinn
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
as told by Alex Haley
The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
by Midge Wilson & Kathy Russell
Black Feminist Thought
by Patricia Hill Collins
The Color of Water
by James McBride
Your Silence Will Not Protect You
by Audre Lord
Don't Touch My Hair
by Emma Tabiri
by James Baldwin
An African American and Latinx History of the United States
by Paul Ortiz
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle
by Angela Davis
Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
The Fire Next Time
by James Baldwin
by Nella Larsen
The New Jim Crow
by Michelle Alexander
Whiteness of a Different Color
by Matthew Frye Jacobson
The Wretched of the Earth
by Frantz Fanon
But Some of Us Are Brave
edited by Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, & Barbara Smith
Women, Race, & Class
by Angela Y. Davis
by Bryan Stevenson
by Dr. Cornell West
Movies, Shows and Documentaries
When They See Us
The Central Park Five
Time: The Kalief Browder Story
Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story
Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement
Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992
Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland
The Hate U Give
Do the Right Thing
The Glass Shield
I Am Not Your Negro
Let The Fire Burn
King in the Wilderness
If Beale Street Could Talk
A look at Cleveland/Cuyahoga Criminal Justice System
Reflection on recent events
How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change
Black Trauma And Showing Up At Work
The Bill Simmons Podcast
DeRay Mckesson on Ending Police Brutality
Black Table Arts
Gathers Black communities through the arts, towards better black futures
Color Blind or Color Brave
With executive Mellody Hobson
On intersectional anti-racism
Martin Luther King Speeches
Black Owned Businesses in Cleveland