CLEVELAND — The Browns hope a ride-along with Cleveland police officers can be a vehicle for change.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey, tight ends Seth DeValve and Randall Telfer and defensive linemen Carl Nassib and Tyrone Holmes spent Tuesday shadowing law enforcement while learning about each other in the process.
"We talk a lot about bridging the gap between community and law enforcement. I felt like this was our way of doing so," Telfer said. "Our local law enforcement does a lot for this community. I wanted to show my appreciation but also hang out with them, talk to them and get to know them on a personal level. That's what we did today."
Browns players and police officers spent roughly four hours patrolling neighborhoods across Cleveland and visiting schools, recreation centers and parks together. They played basketball, football, smiled for photos and signed autographs.
"I learned a lot about what these guys go through on a daily basis, what challenges they face on a daily basis and the challenges they face keeping the community safe," DeValve said. "I also learned some of the good parts of their job and the bad parts of their job, just like any job."
Perhaps equally as important, they also used the afternoon as a chance to broach difficult topics, offering both sides a better understanding and appreciation for each other.
"I did ask how they felt about player protests, and they did acknowledge that it was a right that players have, which they respected. That was cool to hear," Telfer said. "There are a lot of people who obviously don't agree with guys who are protesting, but to have the law enforcement not necessarily being on our side but to acknowledge and respect what the guys are doing, that was pretty cool."
"He doesn't mince words, he doesn't dance around anything. He brought up all the hard questions, I think he's an honest man," added Francis McManamon, a detective in the department Neighborhood Impact Community Engagement (NICE) unit. "I have a different respect for him … I think hopefully we both will look at each other differently. He has a chance to make a lot of change, too."
While every experience was different, players speaking of respect and accountability remained the central takeaways.
"Law enforcement is a really important job," DeValve said. "It's been a profession that has gotten a lot of attention lately – maybe unfairly in some cases and maybe fairly in others. It was important to me to try and speak with officers and build relationships with officers in particular to learn about what they go through and what they do for a profession."
The event comes as the Browns stress the team's ability to bring the community together, regardless of race, religion, gender or socioeconomic background. Before its season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the club unveiled a video highlighting values such as unity, respect and diversity.
Christian Kirksey, Seth DeValve, Randall Telfer, Carl Nassib and Tyrone Holmes shadowed police during a ride-along Tuesday.
Telfer, DeValve and Kirksey were among nine players featured in the piece that continues to run before every home game. Browns players also linked up arm-and-arm with police officers and members of the military prior to the Steelers game in a show of solidarity.
On Tuesday, Kirksey said he and his teammates chose to use their platforms as professional athletes to set an example for those looking up to them.
"We're trying to be a positive influence to the younger generation, so I feel like it is my responsibility to really be a role model for kids," he said. "That's what I'm all about and these officers came out here, they're showing they are good young men as well."
DeValve added the ride-along helped opened doors for more conversations.
"I think our society as a whole is going through some growing pains right now in regards to social justice and equality. Police have a role in it. All community members have a role in it," he said. "There are a lot of difficult and complicated conversations that are going on, and the more conversations you can have and the more sides of the conversation you are familiar with, the more wisdom you'll have and the more direction you'll be able to have when it comes to proposing solutions or changes."
"It was a good start," he continued. "It's not enough for just one ride-along, but it's a really good start and something to build on."