As of Wednesday, neither the Panthers nor the Broncos expected any of their players to not stand during the national anthem. On Thursday, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall opted to kneel.
“While we encourage members of our organization to stand during the National Anthem, we understand and respect it being a personal decision,” the Broncos said in a statement.
Because there is neither a rule requiring players to stand nor a Collective Bargaining Agreement provision permitting discipline to be imposed on that basis, the Broncos can take no action against Marshall. As a practical matter, players could be released or traded based on the gesture, as long as there’s no paper trial of comments suggesting that the team based the decision on anything other than football.
Marshall, a key member of the team’s defense, likely won’t be traded or released, for football reasons or otherwise. The coaching staff and players undoubtedly will be asked about the gesture after the game; one interesting angle will be whether coach Gary Kubiak knew it was coming.