BEREA, Ohio — While proud of her husband for kneeling in prayer with his Cleveland Browns teammates during the national anthem, Erica Harris DeValve said the focus should be on racism and that he should not be looked on as a “white savior” Monday night.
Seth DeValve, a second-year tight end, knelt with 11 African-American players on Monday night in what they called a moment to pray for the nation in light of racial injustice.
“To center the focus of Monday’s demonstration solely on Seth is to distract from what our real focus should be: listening to the experiences and the voices of the black people who are using their platforms to continue to bring the issue of racism in the U.S. to the forefront,” she wrote in a post for TheRoot.com.
“Seth, as a white individual, never has and never will truly have to feel the weight and burden of racial discrimination and racial oppression. No white person does or will. But all white people should care and take a stand against its prevalence in this country. What I hope to see from this is a shift in the conversation to Seth’s black teammates, who realistically have to carry that burden all the time.”
Erica Harris DeValve is an African-American woman who will begin working toward her master’s degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary this fall, with a focus on the intersection of race and Christianity.
“Black players in the NFL cannot just turn their concern on and off in order to be able to focus more on football,” she wrote. “White players shouldn’t, either. Racism is a day-to-day reality, and I hope that, instead of holding Seth up on a pedestal, the response will be to do what he did: listen to the voices of the black people in your life, and choose to support them as they seek to make their voices heard.
“To the people who are looking at pictures of us and saying, ‘Oh, well, that makes sense,’ I offer a dramatic eye roll. People on Twitter have insinuated that it’s simply my appearance that inspired Seth to kneel with his teammates, or that I must’ve threatened Seth with leaving him or refusing to have sex with him if he didn’t join the demonstration. To even joke in this way is gross.”
Seth DeValve said he and his teammates — linebacker Chris Kirksey led the group in prayer — had not discussed whether they would continue kneeling at future games. Seth DeValve avoided social media since Monday, but said the reactions he received were mixed.
“Guys support each other on and off the field,” he said. “We care about each and each other’s lives. I myself care about this subject. I care about the guys that wanted to take a stand on this subject. That’s my role, first and foremost is to be an ally to them and play a supportive role.
“Like I’ve told some other people, the opinions on the topic of racism in America has been mixed for a couple hundred years. So it’s to be expected.”
Erica Harris DeValve wrote that her husband understands the issue and that it was the “responsible” thing to do.
“Seth understands how racism systematically oppresses people across this entire nation,” she wrote. “He understands that to be complacent about it is not just unacceptable as a ‘black wife’s’ husband; Seth supported his teammates because it was the right thing to do, it was the godly thing to do and it was the responsible thing to do. If I were white, he should have done the same, and I am confident that he would have.”