The NFL’s new national anthem policy tells players to either stand on the sidelines, or stay in the locker room.
Naturally, Broncos followers were interested in one player’s opinion. Brandon Marshall.
“I don’t like it,’’ said Marshall, the team’s only starting, three-down inside linebacker. “That’s my opinion. … I don’t like it but I understand it. I understand what they’re trying to protect. They’re trying to protect the shield. The reason we did this in the first place was to bring awareness to police brutality. That’s the reason why we took a knee. That was the symbol of what was going on.’’
It’s unique how all this came about. With Colin Kaepernick unemployed last year, the league’s Anthem controversy had all but diminished until President Trump called protestors like Kaepernick “sons of bitches” during a rally in Alabama.
Trump’s inflammatory term caused hundreds of NFL players – including roughly half the Broncos team -- to kneel during the playing of the Anthem in week 3 at Buffalo. The Broncos and most other players limited their protest to week 3 and stood during the pre-game song the rest of the season.
Still, many fans and league sponsors were disturbed by the protests, feeling the "Star-Spangled Banner" is a sacred patriotic moment that must be honored. No excuses.
Ratings slipped and sponsors either dropped their association with the league, or asked NFL officials to rectify the situation.
It has been argued the Anthem controversy had dissipated again until NFL owners voted 31-0 (with San Francisco’s Jed York abstaining) to enact a policy that gives players the option to stay in the locker room if they don’t want to stand at attention on the sidelines during the playing of the Anthem.
To make a demonstration of disrespect on the field is for the protesting player’s team to incur a fine from the league. The team can then discipline the player as it sees fit.
“I think it kind of died down, anyway,’’ said Broncos’ starting cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who is a co-player’s union rep with Matt Paradis. “To come up with a rule, I didn’t think – I think it was pretty much over with.’’
President Trump praised the league’s new policy, although in a tweet he said if you’re not standing, maybe they shouldn’t be in this country.
“To me it’s disgusting,’’ Marshall, who was the only Bronco who took a knee during the National Anthem through the first half of the 2016 season, said about Trump’s comment. “I say it’s disgusting because of our amendment rights, our First Amendment rights … we have freedom of speech, freedom to protest so now because somebody decides to protest we have to be get kicked out of the country. And that’s not how things should work in my opinion.’’
The Broncos want all players to stand and so long as there are no incidents of social injustice in this country that may well be the case. But if there is an incident, all eyes will be on the players coming out of the tunnel – or on the players defying the new policy by taking a knee on the sideline.
Know this, if there is an incident of social injustice and corresponding protest, the local media will be gathered in front of Marshall’s locker. And they won’t be there to ask about his inside linebacker play.
Has his stance on social injustice affected his performance the past two seasons? And does he want to reach a point where he answers more questions about playing linebacker than this country’s social issues?
“I guess I kind of shifted from that 2015 where he’s a linebacker and he’s good, we want to talk to him about football,’’ Marshall said. “Now it’s this. And I put myself in that position. I understand. As a grown man I understand that but I think I’ve been able to eliminate some distractions with this.
“And I’m doing my part in my community. With my foundation. I’m actually taking my (foundation) kids to D.C. this weekend …
“But it’s tough for me to not be that because of my past. And because of my strong ties to the community (which is) what I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about my community work, as well as football.
“I guess if God just made me a football player then that’s all we’d talk about. My passions are on the field and off the field.’’