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Browns And Steelers Fans Alike Hope For Civility Come Sunday

The Browns were hosting the Steelers Nov. 14 when a fight broke out in the last seconds of the game. The Browns won 21-7. [Sai Thao]
Browns vs Steelers on Nov 14, 2019

By now, most sports fans are plenty familiar with the Nov. 14 end-of-game brawl between the Browns and Steelers. In case you’re not: Browns Defensive End Myles Garrett ripped off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph's helmet and smacked him in the head with it.

Garrett received a  lengthy suspension. His appeal for a shorter suspension, which included a claim that Rudolph used a racial slur, was denied.

This weekend, the Rust Belt rivals face off again — this time in Pittsburgh.

Pre-Thanksgiving rumors were already spreading that Browns fans wearing Garrett's No. 95 jersey would be denied entry to the stadium – that was quickly debunked by the Steelers organization.

Browns season ticket holder Chris McNeil, known on social media as @Reflog_18 and the organizer of the Browns " Perfect Season Parade" after the Browns went winless in 2017, says he considered getting tickets for the game in Pittsburgh, but changed his mind after talking to his friend Lori Braun, a Steelers fan living in the Pittsburgh suburbs. 

"She was looking out for really our best interests in not going. It wasn’t more of she didn’t want to bring a Browns fan as much as it is the safety of us actually going into Heinz Field," McNeil said.

The concern was that interactions between fans at the game could turn violent -- especially for Browns fans who would likely be outnumbered, Braun said. Braun's son even searched for tickets to the upcoming game, but if the game were in Cleveland instead of Pittsburgh, Braun said she would not have let him go to the game.

"I think rivalries are good, but when it gets violent, that’s crossing the line,” she said. “We want the peaceful people to show up and the fun and the jovial part of the rivalry. Those are fun. The fighting is not fun.”

The Browns/Steelers rivalry has been lopsided for a quite while in favor of the Steelers, McNeil said, but it has mostly stayed fun over the years.

"Rivalry is a very good thing in sports and it's good as long as it can be in the right tone,” he said. 

Even with the brawl, the Browns beat the Steelers two weeks ago, 21-7, and won again last week, possibly evening out the team’s season and the rivalry with the Steelers. While McNeil doesn't want to see violence in the stands, it is something he’s expecting this weekend.

"You got a violent act like that on the field, naturally that the kind of clues the fans in on the type of the type of behaviors that this is going to conjure up," McNeil said. 

What happens between players on the field can be reflected by fans, Braun said.

"These people are role models to adults, to children, to their fans. I think civility on the field is where it has to start and then hopefully the fans will be civil,” she said. “There is always going to be people who are going to go overboard, but I think it starts with the players and the coaches."

Despite expecting to see some fans go overboard, McNeil remains optimistic about seeing civility in the stands on Sunday.

"I think almost at this point, a couple of fights, a couple of skirmishes, that sort of thing is probably almost to be expected, unfortunately," he said. "But I think that cooler heads will prevail for the most part."

Kickoff for this Sunday’s game was moved from 4:25 p.m. to 1 p.m. The NFL did not give an official reason for the time change.

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.