Broncos executive John Elway doesn’t mind his players exercising their right to protest, as long as they satisfy a few conditions.
First, he wants to make sure their primary focus is on football. But he also wants anyone who does to make their protests meaningful by following up with action, the way Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall did last year.
Via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, Elway said he hasn’t talked to the players as a team about the situation, but hoped they’d concentrate on how their personal beliefs impact the greater good (in both society and sport).
“My stance is, . . . everybody has the right to do what they wish to do and their beliefs are their beliefs. That’s why we live in this country,” Elway said. “They have the right to display whatever they wish to display. I think one thing that where we stand and I kind of stand with the Broncos is that, ‘You know what? That’s OK. We’ll respect that and whatever you want to do is fine with us. But the bottom line is that can’t get in the way of our main goal, and that is to compete for world championships.’
“So I just don’t want that pulling away from our team, and sometimes that can pull away because obviously it gets a lot of attention and so, therefore, the only thing I would so to our players is make sure it’s not hurting your teammates. If the questions and everything, if the tenor changes everything that’s going on in these interviews and now you’re not talking about our next opponent but you’re talking about what’s going on in the world, that’s not the best thing for our football team. So I only advise and would tell our players, ‘I respect where you stand. But when you’re doing anything, just understand what it’s doing to the football team,’ because I want all these guys to understand that we’re football-first and we want to win football games. And if we do that, everything’s going to be fine.”
Marshall was one of the players last year who joined then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling for the national anthem to protest discrimination by law enforcement. Marshall then later met with Denver Police Chief Robert White to discuss the department’s use-of-force policy, as well as work in elementary schools in the Denver area.
“And I think obviously Brandon made a point last year, but he carried it forward,” Elway said. “He didn’t just make a stand on the field before the games. He actually went out in the community and did something and talked to different people and went and talked to law enforcement. I was proud of Brandon and the fact that not only did he show his support for what it was last year, but also he went out and did something in the community about it.”
It’s refreshing and interesting to hear Elway take that stance, since it gives players the freedom to express their beliefs. But considering the fact the Broncos had interest in trading for Kaepernick before his protests, but then not afterward, the actions speak as well. Letting a player express himself is apparently fine, so long as the individual doesn’t believe that stance is bigger than the goal of winning a ball game.