As Broncos representatives, should John Elway and Brandon Marshall stick to sports?
Broncos Country is united in orange … well at least until John Elway or Brandon Marshall uses a sports platform to make a political statement. Marshall caused a stir last season by kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice. Elway has attracted ire this week by writing a letter adorned with the Broncos logo that supports Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Did Marshall and Elway step out of bounds?
This notion that sports ever was completely isolated from politics is false. It never was and never will be. In the NFL alone, the league and the Players Association each have their own political action committees. For years, athletes were criticized for not taking more of a stand on social issues. Now, in a time when many have, they face criticism, even threats. Agree or disagree with their messages, players and executives have the right to speak out (or remain silent if they choose), just as any other citizen does. What they say is magnified because of their celebrity, but they still have a right to speak.
Elway is bigger than the Broncos. Heck, he’s bigger than Longs Peak in Colorado. So no matter what he does, whether it’s signing a free-agent contract or a political letter, Elway represents the team. Marshall made his protest on the job, wearing a Broncos uniform. I’ve got no problem with either man doing what they did. In fact, I admire a sports personality willing to stand up and endorse something more important than sneakers or soft drinks.
They represent the team, but they’re entitled to their own views, just as any employee of any company is entitled to have separate opinions from their organization’s. Marshall made his stance on a game day, but you could argue that Elway submitted the letter “on the job,” too. A GM’s job isn’t 9-5, and he wrote it on a personal letter but still with Broncos letterhead. Elway has long been a Republican supporter, and his boss, Joe Ellis, is a first cousin of former President George W. Bush’s. Marshall has followed his silent protest by meeting with the Denver Police Chief and donating thousands of dollars to local organizations. Again, you don’t have to agree with their message or even their delivery, but they’re entitled to it.
I’m not sure why a United States senator would seriously consider an NFL general manager’s recommendation for Supreme Court justice, any more than Elway would take advice from Sen. Michael Bennet on whether the Broncos should hire Tony Romo as their quarterback. It’s impossible to keep politics out of sports or the coffee shop. So here’s my two cents: 1) Listen more to somebody with a different worldview, and 2) Yell less.
Sticking to sports talk is naive and silly and a convenient retort for anyone who disagrees with what’s being said. To me it’s like a little kid holding his hands over his ears and screaming, “La, la, la, la, I can’t hear you!” Politics in this country are incredibly divisive right now, and while sports can often be a calming escape, they’re not completely immune to the outside world. How can they be when pro sports teams are becoming billion-dollar operations? I’m with you, Kiz: Accept more. Scream less.
Broncos general manager John Elway, left, and linebacker Brandon Marshall have both taken a stand — or a knee — for causes they support. Denver Post file photos