As Bron­cos rep­re­sen­ta­tives, should John El­way and Bran­don Mar­shall stick to sports?

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Kiz: Kiz: Kiz: Jhab­vala: Jhab­vala: Jhab­vala:

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

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