John Elway, the Hall of Fame quarterback and president of football operations for the Denver Broncos, released a statement through the team on Tuesday night addressing the protests during the national anthem from this past weekend’s games.
Elway expressed his belief in standing for the anthem and the flag while indicating he understood the desire of his players to make a statement following the comments of President Donald Trump last Friday in Huntsville, Ala.
“I’m one that believes in standing for the national anthem, and I’ve always believed that,” Elway said in the statement. “I believe that this is the greatest country in the world. We are very fortunate to live here, but it’s obviously not perfect. There are a lot of things that need to be corrected, and we will continue to work on those things. I’m one that really believes in standing for the flag. I understand the players and the way they felt from the comments that were made earlier in the week. They felt they had to go down and kneel and that’s up to them. Hopefully as we go forward we can start concentrating on football a little bit more. Take the politics out of football. But I think that last week was a good show of unity by the NFL and hopefully this week we can move forward.”
It’s interesting that Elway makes a claim of wanting to take the politics out of football. In March, Elway wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsing the candidacy of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. He did so on his personal letterhead, which includes Broncos logos. Apparently it was OK for Elway to support a political appointee with the weight of the Broncos behind him in March, but now that it’s a protest by the players he wants to “take the politics out of football.”
Elway can support anyone he wants. He was present in Washington D.C. for Trump’s inauguration in January. But it rings a bit hollow when he makes a political statement of his own in backing Gorsuch for the Supreme Court on team stationary and then claims he doesn’t want politics and football to intersect months later.
The protests – which, again, are focused on bringing attention to police brutality and social injustices – had been relegated to a fairly minor story line at the start of the season until the president elected to attack the league and call players who knelt in protest “sons of bitches” last week. What seems clear is that it’s now been magnified more than ever and doesn’t appear close to subsiding anytime soon.