Joel Bitonio hopes Browns, NFL can use their platform to 'promote love' amid national protests

Browns players and coaches paused their football responsibilities Monday for an important conversation about a critical topic that has polarized the nation for the past week.

In a team video call, the Browns discussed what they can do to promote social justice amid the ongoing unrest from protests against police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody last week. Players exchanged ideas and created a safe space for anyone to speak about how they can use their NFL platform to spark positive change in their community during these times of high tensions.

Joel Bitonio, a team captain for the last two seasons, informed local reporters Tuesday about the team meeting in a Zoom call.

"I think the conclusion we came to is that there is injustice in this world right now," Bitonio said. "People are hurting. People need help. We're going to use the power in our position to help them."

Bitonio said Jarvis Landry spent 10 minutes addressing the team with an emotional message about what they can do to end racism, and coach Kevin Stefanski provided players with a list of actions to consider taking to make a difference. Bitonio also said the NFL Players Coalition is planning future meetings to discuss those topics, too.

The actions are all important as protests continue in several major cities. Bitonio and other players hope the dialogue will continue beyond this period of national protest.

"Some of my best friends in life have been through some really tough situations with law enforcement, or just in general, and you try and listen and understand where they're going," Bitonio said. "I think people are hurting. I think there's a real hurt and a real cry for help, and they want people to listen to them and understand where they're coming from. They don't want to start an argument, and they don't want to start a crazy discussion about it. They want you to listen, and they want you to truly accept what is going on."

Browns players and coaches realize there's ample work left — that's what the meeting was for. Even as they await their return to Cleveland for football activities, they're still on a stage where people will hear their message and, hopefully, think critically.

Dialogue will be necessary to continue change toward fair and equal treatment of African Americans. A virtual setting won't stop the Browns from continuing those conversations, and neither will the resumption of on-field football activities, whenever they begin.

"I think players will use their platform, which they should," Bitonio said. "People listen, and kids listen. It starts with the younger generation, and you tell them to love each other and to have that compassion and empathy for other people. That's where it grows, and I hope players, ownership and the NFL as a whole will use their platform to promote love."

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