CLEVEALAND – Cleveland police and emergency services unions have declined an invitation from the NFL’s Cleveland Browns to hold an American flag for the team’s season opener. They do not want to participate after some Browns players knelt for the national anthem during a preseason game.

EMS union president Daniel Nemeth told Fox 8 Cleveland on Friday that the offer to participate in a pregame ceremony sounded great until a dozen Browns players refused to stand for the anthem. Their actions are a domino effect of support for free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, the former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, started the controversial move last season when he decided to kneel for the playing of the anthem before games. He said it was a protest against mistreatment of blacks and other minorities in the U.S. Yet his symbolic move to kneel during the national anthem is simply protesting the right to protest.

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“This hit home with me. I am a veteran, an 8-year veteran with the U.S. Marine Corps. So, to disrespect the flag by taking a knee is not something I was going to be a part of,” Nemeth said.

Steve Loomis, the Cleveland police union president, told Fox 8 Cleveland his officers will not participate either.

“ … if the ownership of the Browns and the league are going to allow that type of stuff to happen, and then come to us and say, ‘We want you to help us with the flag,’ that’s hypocritical. We’re not gonna participate.”

The Browns organization has not commented on the decision by the unions decline the invitation to hold the flag for the first game of the season. But they have supported their players’ decision to sit out the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country’s national anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad,” the team said last month. “We feel it’s important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression.”

The Browns will open the NFL season Sept. 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

(Photo: Screenshot Fox 8 Cleveland)