CLEVELAND — Jim Brown has spent much of his post-NFL career fighting for social justice and change.
However, the Hall of Fame running back would never kneel during the national anthem.
The 82-year-old Brown, who championed civil rights during his playing career and became an activist in retirement, said Tuesday night that he respects players’ rights to do what they want but his preference is they would stand during ‘‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’’
‘‘I’ll never kneel and I will always respect the flag,’’ said Brown, who spoke before an HBO premiere of ‘‘Hard Knocks,’’ which is chronicling the Cleveland Browns in training camp.
Brown was asked how he would resolve the anthem issue, which has plagued the league for two years.
‘‘Well, if you take the bottom line, what are we talking about? We’re talking about freedom to express one’s self, and if you don’t break any rules then you have that particular right,’’ he said.
‘‘I am not going to denigrate my flag and I’m going to stand for the national anthem. I’m fighting with all of my strength to make it a better country, but I don’t think that’s the issue. Because what is the top side? Are you not going to stand up? This is our country, man.
‘‘We work hard to make it better and that’s my attitude, so I don’t relate to this issue because it’s newsworthy because where are your superstars? And where are they at? Aren’t they making comments?’’
Protests during the anthem have enveloped the league since former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest social injustice.
The NFL modified its anthem protocol in May, prohibiting demonstrations for 2018, but allowing players to remain in the locker room during the anthem.
The players’ union filed a grievance, and the change has been tabled while the NFL and NFLPA work on a resolution.