BEREA, Ohio – As the Browns and nation celebrate Black History Month throughout February, the team will continue to emphasize social justice efforts through its #BeTheSolution initiative, as well as other programs that focus on uniting and supporting the community. New this month, the Browns are launching "Cleveland Huddle" to assist local black-owned restaurants while also providing food relief to individuals in need.
To start the "Cleveland Huddle" campaign, the Browns have partnered with three local restaurants – GoodfellasBBQ in Cleveland Heights, Soul Fo' Real in Strongsville and Sauce the City in Ohio City – for meal distributions in February to local non-profit organizations, including Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries and The City Mission's Crossroads men's crisis center and Laura's Home women crisis center. During each of the next three weeks, the team and restaurants will package hundreds of individual meals for delivery to help provide food relief to the shelters and its constituents.
Browns fans are also encouraged to support the effort by being patrons of each of these three local Black-owned eating establishments throughout the month and beyond, as well as others that have been posted to the #BeTheSolution website.
Build the Bridge
During training camp, the Browns announced a partnership with "Build the Bridge," which is designed to empower, develop and unify high school football teams through meaningful interactions between programs of different racial and/or socio-economic demographics. This month, the team and "Build the Bridge" will host a Chalk Talk with the football programs at Cleveland Heights High School and Olmsted Falls High School, as well as work together soon to build and paint legacy benches that will ultimately be positioned at both schools to serve as a constant reminder of the importance of equality in sports and the entire community.
Established by Cleveland Heights coaches Mac Stephens and Kahari Hicks and Beachwood Head Coach Damion Creel, "Build the Bridge" strives to create a coalition of coaches, players, parents and administration and community members to foster the success of student-athletes through social-emotional, educational and athletic advancement. The program creates opportunities for all team members to build relationships and mutual respect between diverse communities, regardless of their race, class or creed.
Once two schools are matched through "Build the Bridge," they plan an event focused on personal connections by conducting a collaborative discussion on social justice and race relations, competing with one another on the field or in the weight room and a shared meal to complete the day. Following the meetings, coaches and athletes are encouraged to remain in regular contact throughout the year to spark additional dialogue and strengthen team bonds.
Although the past year's events were required to happen virtually or in a socially-distant format due to COVID-19 protocols, more than 80 Northeast Ohio high school football teams signed up to participate in 2020 and 2021.
Additional Black History Month engagements
- Cleveland 3-Team Alliance Town Hall – Cleveland's 3-Team Alliance, a partnership between the Browns, Cavaliers and Indians, will host a panel event at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse focused on creating meaningful conversations between the Cleveland Division of Police and local Cleveland youth. Representatives from all three teams will be in attendance. Sparked by the leadership of each of the major professional sports teams' head coaches, general managers and front office executives, the three organizations announced in August an alliance to address social injustice in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio, primarily focusing on improving the relationship between law enforcement and its citizens; encouraging non-partisan voting activities; and increasing opportunities for high-quality education for everyone.
- City Club Speaker Series – Aligned with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission's Velocity programming heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, the Browns and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission will engage with the City Club of Cleveland's speaker series for dialogue related to social justice and sports.
- Character Playbook Speaker Series – The Browns will continue its support of the Character Playbook's Voter Suppression Speaker Series, which will feature panel discussions with athletes from across the NFL to discuss voter suppression in America.
- In addition to the various programs listed, spotlight stories of Browns Legends and key members of the organization will also be featured on @BrownsGiveBack social media channels throughout Black History Month.
Be the Solution
Following the tragic death of George Floyd, and as protests spread from coast to coast and across the globe, Browns Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry on June 5 sent a passionate email to all Browns employees. Ultimately, it served as the inspiration for a call to action that now includes all Browns fans through the team's #BeTheSolution campaign.
The #BeTheSolution initiative is designed to provide fans an opportunity and resources related to making a significant impact to help create social equality with an emphasis on education; police reform and accountability; economic advancement and community support; and non-partisan voter registration, education and turnout.
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 tragedies involving Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others victims representing the Black community.
"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.'"
In his email, Berry encouraged staff to take one of three significant steps to educate themselves and/or make a donation to an organization committed to social equality initiatives. Within 24 hours, more than 50 employees participated. Including Berry's $8,460 commitment and matching contributions from the Haslam family, the organization's staff raised more than $180,000 for 14 different charities in just a few weeks.
#BeTheSolution call to action:
- Spend at least 8 minutes and 46 seconds (in honor of Floyd) on one of a number of educational or dialogue items available and submit a short written or video reflection about what they learned or will do moving forward
- Sign up for any social activism initiative
- Donate anything to a social activism cause
Those resources were then made available outside of the Browns' organization to anyone who strives to do their part to help create social justice through www.clevelandbrowns.com/BeTheSolution.
During a virtual team meeting, Head Coach Kevin Stefanski also 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.