DENVER — Taking a knee for the national anthem wasn’t something Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall did on a whim.
He said he had been thinking about it for a couple weeks going back to when his teammate and fraternity brother at the University of Nevada, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, started his protest. Marshall didn’t kneel during the national anthem in the Broncos’ preseason finale because he was still unsure.
Marshall had reservations right up until the last moment before Thursday’s regular-season opener.
“I thought about it all the way up until when the lady was going to start singing,” Marshall said after the Broncos’ 21-20 win. “I was like, hmm, they’re going to get on me. At the end of the day, I’m definitely good with my decision.”
He thought it through because he understood there are strong feelings on both sides. He said the only teammate he talked about it with was tight end Virgil Green, who told him, “be ready for everything that comes at you.” Marshall said he checked his phone briefly after the game, before talking to the media. He saw what he called “hate comments.”
“To me, that’s exactly what we’re talking about,” Marshall said.
Like Kaepernick, Marshall had to explain that his protest is not an anti-military statement. Kaepernick dealt with the same misplaced criticism. Marshall said he has uncles who are military veterans.
And like Kaepernick, it was clear Marshall has thought the entire issue through and feels strongly about it.
“I’m against social injustice. I’m not against the military, the police or America at all. I’m against social injustice,” Marshall said. “I felt this was the right thing to do.
“This is the right platform. This is our only platform to be heard. I think a lot of times people want us to just shut up and entertain them, shut up and play football. But we have issues as well. We’re educated individuals who went to college. When we have an opinion, I feel like a lot of people bash us for it.”
And like Kaepernick, Marshall said he’s willing to do more than just take a knee during the anthem. Marshall said he wants to be active and he planned to donate money to various causes, including organizations that support veterans.
“It’s hard for vets in this country as well,” Marshall said.
Marshall brought up the instances of police brutality that made headlines over the summer as a root of the protest. Marshall is the fourth known player to take a knee or sit during the anthem, joining Kaepernick, 49ers safety Eric Reid and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane.
For those who have criticized the players for using the anthem to draw attention to the cause, Marshall rightly pointed out that protesting during the anthem allowed Kaepernick, himself and others to speak on a large platform about the issues they want to see changed.
“I think Colin figured, ‘What’s the best way I can get my message out?’” Marshall said. “He can talk all he wants, but actions speak louder than words. When he took a knee, or when he sat down, he got people thinking, ‘Hold on, what is he doing?’ After that he was able to say everything he felt.”
Even though Marshall saw the negative messages on his phone, and said he understood that he’ll lose some fans over the protest — and that’s “absolutely” something he considered before the anthem started Thursday — he said he had no regrets. Marshall said he’ll continue to protest during the anthem this season.
“I’m a man of faith. I prayed about it, long and hard,” Marshall said. “And I felt this was the right thing to do.”
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