The controversial protest of not standing for the National Anthem that began with San Francisco 49ers reserve quarterback Colin Kaepernick has brought about strong emotions on both sides of the issue. Those supporting Kaepernick believe that his First Amendment rights afford him that opportunity, while those opposed believe that it’s disrespectful to those who have fought for the United States in various conflicts.
Kaepernick’s original gesture was to simply sit on the team’s bench to protest the deaths of African-Americans by police. That eventually evolved into him getting down on one knee during the playing of the Anthem. That has since led other National Football League players to follow suit, including Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall.
Marshall, a college teammate of Kaepernick at the University of Nevada, first knelt down for the Anthem before the Broncos’ season-opening contest at home against the Carolina Panthers on September 8. Following the game, Marshall stated that the gesture was not meant as an insult to the country or to police. Instead, it was meant as a way to focus on what Marshall perceived as social injustice.
Indicating that he believed that a certain amount of hypocrisy was behind the complaints about the gesture, Marshall noted that he has First Amendment rights. Yet because he was exercising those rights, his beliefs were somehow considered not justified.
To emphasize the point that he wasn’t trying to attack police for doing their job. Marshall later met with Denver Police Chief Robert White and top members of his staff. White’s office sent out a statement after the meeting took place and indicated that the two sides had a positive discussion.
One day after Marshall’s action, one of his corporate sponsors abruptly ended their business relationship after just five months. Air Academy Federal Credit Union made the decision primarily due to the fact that many of their customers either serve in the military or are family members of those individuals.
The company’s president and CEO, Glenn Strebe, indicated in a prepared statement that the company did respect Marshall’s freedom of speech. However, because his actions weren’t representative of the company or their customers, they decided that no other alternative existed.
The enmity toward Marshall’s action was so strong that some fans used social media to mistakenly attack another player with the same name. New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall received a series of angry tweets from fans upset with the other Marshall’s actions.
On September 12, the Broncos’ Marshall saw another sponsorship agreement terminated when Century Link announced that they were also dropping him from their list of endorsers. The communications company also acknowledged Marshall’s right to such a gesture, but their belief was that standing for the Anthem served as a “common bond” among Americans.
That same day, a Broncos fan was more emphatic in their denunciation of Marshall’s actions. That fan stood outside the team’s Denver practice facility and proceeded to burn a Marshall jersey in protest. That’s similar to what happened in Kaepernick’s case, with one fan even posting his action online.
Despite the controversy, Marshall did receive a pair of sponsorship offers the next day. The first came from Russell Simmons, the CEO of Rush Communications, who made his offer through his Instagram account. The latter was from PG Sports, a sportswear company that’s based in New York.
In reality, the income Marshall was receiving from the sponsorship agreements pales in comparison to the four-year, $32 million contract extension he had signed with the Broncos in June.