Members of the Cleveland Browns kneel during the national anthem before Monday’s preseason game against the New York Giants. Photograph: Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports

Twelve Cleveland Browns players kneeled in prayer together Monday night during the national anthem before a preseason game against the New York Giants.

The group included veterans, rookies, starters and backups. During the national anthem, they gathered in front of some water coolers and behind their teammates who stood on the sideline.

Linebackers Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey, running backs Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, Brandon Wilds and Terrance Magee, tight end Seth DeValve, wide receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis and defensive backs Calvin Pryor, Jamar Taylor, and Jabrill Peppers dropped to one knee in a circle. Right next to them supporting them by putting their hands on their shoulders were rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, offensive tackle Shon Coleman, punter Britton Colquitt, defensive back Jason McCourty and offensive lineman Marcus Martin.

After the game, Kirksey said the players were “praying over their country.” DeValve, a second-year tight end, is the first white NFL player to kneel for the anthem.

“The United States is the greatest country in the world. And it is because it provides opportunities to its citizens that no other country does,” DeValve said after the game. “The issue is that it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody, and I wanted to support my African-American teammates today who wanted to take a knee. We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there’s things in this country that still need to change.”