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Browns celebrate Black History Month in alignment with Be the Solution

The Browns continue their commitment to advancing social justice with focus on economic development

Black History Month

Throughout the month of February, the Cleveland Browns celebrated Black History Month through the team's Be the Solution platform, which is the organization's commitment to advancing social justice in the following areas:

  1. Economic advancement through a focus on championing minority and Black-owned businesses and supporting the re-entry process
  2. Police and community relations

Dedicated to advancing social justice efforts throughout the year, February serves as a great way for the team to amplify its work in the space. Through various activations and events including the 4th annual Cleveland Huddle program, the first-ever Cleveland Huddle Pathway initiative, and a one-of-a-kind interview with the Browns' Bill Willis Coaching Fellow Nemo Washington, the team was able to spotlight its work in the social justice space.

Cleveland Huddle

Now in its fourth year of programming, the Cleveland Huddle campaign seamlessly integrates into the team's Black History Month celebration and Be the Solution platform. This campaign champions Black-owned restaurants and extends support to those in need by providing hunger relief.

Throughout the month, the Browns supported No Fork, The Crispy Chick, Black Box Fix and Sauce the City. The Browns delivered 200 meals from No Fork to Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, and over 100 meals from The Crispy Chick were provided to Laura's Home Women's Shelter.

Black Box Fix came to the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus to cater lunch for Browns staff during the month, providing some of their signature dishes. Sauce the City was provided to students who participated in the Cleveland Huddle Pathway program.

Cleveland Huddle Pathway

The Browns hosted the first-ever Cleveland Huddle Pathway, where the team welcomed 40 students and chaperones from Euclid City Schools to spend a day at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. The event served as an opportunity to educate high school students on a wide array of careers available in the sports industry – outside of being a professional athlete.

In collaboration with the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network, the students from Euclid City Schools were selected to attend the event as a reward for being leaders in their schools and showing a commitment to improved and good school attendance.

Browns Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Player Personnel Glenn Cook shared his story and challenged the students to three goals: to be curious, to engage and to dream. The students also heard from DT Maurice Hurst, who shared his journey to the NFL and asked the students about their future career goals. The event wrapped up with a panel of Browns employees who work in different departments across the organization.

"It's to keep them motivated," Euclid City Schools Attendance and Residency Coordinator Jerimie Acree said. "At the end of the day, we understand that some days are hard. And so, just to keep them on the right path and say hey, hard work pays off. That's huge. And so again, to have them be a part of, for some, a once in a lifetime opportunity, is huge. Our hope is that it continues to motivate them but then maybe they'll go back to their classes, the school and the communities at large and inspire somebody else that might be at a fork in the road and might not know which way to go."

Stay in the Game! Interview with Browns Bill Willis Diversity Coaching Fellow Nemo Washington

Bedford High School senior Jordan Rutledge had the chance to sit down with Browns Bill Willis Coaching Fellow Nemo Washington to learn more about his path to coaching in the NFL.

Rutledge was selected for the interview due to his commitment to being a leader at his high school, both on and off the field, and a dedication to his school attendance. Rutledge was a two-year starter at Bedford High School and has played football for 12 years.

As the two sat down at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus, Washington shared his journey, from being a collegiate player, dealing with an injury and later a health concern, then finding his way into coaching while in college.

"If it wasn't for Bill Willis, I wouldn't have this job," Washington said. "So, it means everything to me to know his story and to know his path to understand what he meant to this city and to this organization. It's a tremendous opportunity, and he essentially paved the way for me and for other guys."

The Bill Willis Fellowship focuses on the offensive side of the ball, which Washington believes is an important emphasis for the fellowship.

"Not a lot of people who look like me, who are African American, are placed in the position of being like an offensive coordinator or quarterback coach," Washington said. "And the Browns do a good job of promoting that. Guys doing well in this position now and getting these positions as a quarterback coach or offense/quarterback is only going to set them up to be offensive coordinators so we can get more African Americans in positions like that, so we can keep growing this opportunity for everyone."

When Washington first received the email that he was chosen as the Bill Willis Coaching Fellow, he wasn't sure that it was real. Yet, as his correspondence continued with Browns Senior Personnel/Coaching Executive Bob Quinn, his excitement grew about the opportunity. He came to Cleveland and interviewed for the fellowship. He then received a call from head coach Kevin Stefanski, who officially offered him the position.

"Coach Stefanski, for him to even allow that to happen, that's rare," Washington said. "I'm just grateful for this opportunity and extremely happy to be here."

Rutledge and Washington also went on a tour of CrossCountry Mortgage Campus, highlighting the different areas and departments that make up the Browns organization. Rutledge said hearing Washington's personal journey, as well as experiencing a tour, was inspirational for him as he plans for his future after high school.

"Opportunities like this can happen to anyone, and if you have the chance to grab it and take it because it's not going to happen twice in a row," Rutledge said. "This tour was very informational, and opened up an opportunity to do coaching because it sounds exciting and a great opportunity. I still want to play football, so that's my first choice. But my second choice will be coaching."

The Browns were proud to celebrate Black History Month through their Be the Solution platform. The entire organization – coaches, players and front office members – are dedicated to having a meaningful impact in the social justice arena. For more information and resources about Be the Solution, visit the website.

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