Fans gave Baker Mayfield a lot of heat for his decision to kneel during the National Anthem.
There were plenty of supporters, but a bigger and louder crowd blasted the Cleveland Browns quarterback.
Mayfield says he read and listened to a lot of the disgruntled fans.
And three months after he doubled down on his initial decision during a Cleveland Browns press conference,
— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) September 12, 2020
Baker Mayfield reversed his stance, telling fans via social media he would stand after all.
If Mayfield expected a calmer response to his reversal, he was mistaken.
Fans took to Twitter and Instagram to express their support and dismay at Mayfield’s about-face.
But mostly, it was dismay.
Why Baker Mayfield Will Stand
In his announcement, Mayfield asserts his politics and views on America haven’t changed.
He talks about how challenges and adversity need to be addressed.
But it is notable he never mentions Black Lives Matter, or people of color in general, in either decision.
Baker Mayfield speaks pic.twitter.com/EFtPlKaa0U
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) June 14, 2020
He also never mentions police or their use of force.
Instead, he vaguely refers to the “human rights issue” and the need for change.
He did, however, retweet a strong statement from Russell Wilson (posted further below).
And, in his June diatribe claiming he “would absolutely kneel”, Mayfield declared support for the “military, cops, and those who serve.”
But now he says discussions that followed that decision convinced him kneeling is not a good idea.
“I have been (shown) that a gesture such as kneeling will only create more division or discussion about the gesture, rather than be a solution to the country’s problems at hand.”
The inarticulate and scattered post might reflect continued confusion or indecision on Mayfield’s part.
But many fans were quick to point out that more discussion is the goal of the protest.
Social Media Pours It On
Mayfield might be surprised by the reaction of people who don’t like the anthem protests.
Many of the folks he initially offended continued to blast Mayfield for raising the topic again.
His motives and patriotism were questioned, and theories that the NFL came down on him peppered Twitter.
I'm writing a book where I've interviewed dozens of HS and college athletes who kneeled during the anthem. They faced death threats and scorn with no publicity or fame to show for it. @bakermayfield could learn something from their courage. If bravery was easy, we'd all be brave.
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) September 12, 2020
Meanwhile, supporters of kneeling expressed disappointment, some more abrasively than others.
Baker Mayfield is another example of how NOT to be an ally.
— Chris Williamson (@CWilliamson44) September 12, 2020
“Baker Mayfield is another example of how NOT to be an ally,” Chris Williamson, an anchor for SNY, wrote.
Baker Mayfield says he’s now standing for anthem because kneeling would create more discussion. Is there anyone on the Browns who can explain to him why that’s a good thing?
— Tom D’Angelo (@tomdangelo44) September 12, 2020
“Baker Mayfield says he’s now standing for anthem because kneeling would create more discussion. Is there anyone on the Browns who can explain to him why that’s a good thing?” Tom Angelo of the Palm Beach Post wrote.
Baker Mayfield changes his mind to kneel AFTER fans boo a display of unity not even during the national anthem? This is peak white privilege https://t.co/cnvncZE6Uh
— 𝐄𝐱𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐫 𝐏𝐨𝐩𝐞 (@exavierpope) September 12, 2020
“Baker Mayfield changes his mind to kneel AFTER fans boo a display of unity not even during the national anthem? This is peak white privilege,” Exavier Pope wrote.
There was a sizable contingent alleging that Mayfield never intended to kneel.
Others lamented his reversal while supporting his right to do so.
Of course, there were quite a few folks who thanked Mayfield for reversing course.
They praised his decision as a show of respect for the flag, military, police, and/or country.
This despite Mayfield’s declaration that
“My heart is even more passionate than it was months ago, due to the fact that we are not close to being where our country needs to be.”
Navigating a Mine Field
Regardless of how one feels about anthem protests or the other big issues of the day, Mayfield’s timing is questionable.
His assertion that announcing his decision on Saturday would make it a non-issue by Sunday is misguided.
It’s not important whether social media remains abuzz or how much play the issue gets from broadcasters.
But did Mayfield create a locker room distraction on the eve of their first game?
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) June 1, 2020
But Mayfield came down hard on the side of protesters only to back down at the last minute.
And teammates are human, too.
Several tweets derisively mentioned how Mayfield’s decision making hasn’t improved.
Let’s hope he got everything he needs to say out of his head on Saturday, so he can concentrate on Cleveland Browns football.