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Cleveland Browns National Anthem protest

The Browns' Seth DeValve became the first white NFL player to kneel for the anthem

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A Cleveland Browns tight end is the first known white player in the National Football League (NFL) to kneel during the National Anthem, according to ESPN.

Seth DeValve dropped to one knee alongside 11 other Browns players during their team’s preseason game late Monday.

“I myself will be raising children that don’t look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now,” said Seth DeValve, whose wife, Erica DeValve, is African-American.

“So I wanted to take the opportunity with my teammates during the anthem to pray for our country and also to draw attention to the fact that we have work to do,” he continued.

“It saddens me that in 2017 we have to do something like that. I would like to say that I love this country. I love our national anthem.”

ESPN reported that the group knelt behind the team’s bench, adding that several other players placed a hand on a teammate’s shoulder in support.

The Browns defeated the New York Giants in Monday’s game, according to ESPN, marking the team’s second win in two preseason games this year.

DeValve called the U.S. “the greatest country in the world” before noting he wanted to help seek greater equality for its people.

“It is because [the U.S.] provides opportunities that no other country does,” he said of why he admires America.

“The issue is that it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody. I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee.”

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Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stopped standing during the National Anthem last year, gaining national attention in the process.

Multiple NFL players have since followed Kaepernick’s lead by practicing the gesture, which is meant to advocate for racial equality and social justice in the U.S.

Kaepernick remains a free agent as the 2017 NFL season nears, with some pundits speculating national debate over his actions may have made teams hesitant to add him to their rosters.

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