It was the first game of the NFL season, a rematch between defending NFL champions the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. The storyline was set in stone since February: now that veteran Payton Manning has rode off in the sunset with the Lombardi trophy, will Cam Newton get his revenge and defeat the Broncos?
However, another issue emerged when Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall acted in solidarity of San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick by kneeling during the play of the national anthem.
“The message is that I’m against social injustice,” Marshall said in a postgame interview. “I’m not against the military, police or America at all. I’m against social injustice and I feel like this is the right thing to do.”
The linebacker also met with Denver Police Chief Robert White on Tuesday.
The protests continued throughout the opening weekend of NFL football. It was a tender time for America, as many of the games landed on Sept. 11.
Kenny Stills, Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, and Jelani Jenkins of the Miami Dolphins kneeled side by side as the anthem played before their game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Foster facilitated a players-only meeting among the Dolphins to discuss what their actions would be during the play of the Star Spangled Banner.
“We talked about it,” Foster said. “It’s a big issue in America right now. We’ve got to address it, the stage we’re in.”
On the other side of the field, the Seahawks interlocked arms. The Kansas City Chiefs also locked arms during their game against the San Diego Chargers.
Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters wore black gloves and rose one fist in the air, a parallel to the 1968 Olympic salute done by sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
The act of protesting is growing almost as fast as the impending backlash for the acts.
Denver’s Marshall noted that he knew there would be resistance; he accepted that fans would be lost and businesses may distance themselves. However, he committed to the protest, after discussing it with loved ones.
The backlash came with exponential speed. Air Academy Federal Credit Union terminated his endorsement deal less than 24 hours after the game, releasing a statement that next morning.
CenturyLink also ended their sponsorship deal with Marshall on Monday. The company expressed in statement how Marshall has the right to express his beliefs, but moments when the national anthem is played, Americans should show unity and allegiance.
An individual even came to the Broncos practice facilities to burn a shirt with Marshall’s name on it.
“He’s burning a T-shirt that he bought and drew on lol,” Marshall stated on Twitter, retweeting the act.
Kaepernick and Marshall both attended University of Nevada, Reno and were teammates for four years. Marshall also plans to donate to charities like Kaepernick.
As for football, The Denver defense held off the Panthers in a close 21-20 rally. Carolina had the lead at halftime, but Denver responded with a 14-point run in the fourth quarter.
Despite aiding the Broncos in defeating the Panthers twice this year, people have sent offensive messages to Marshall about him kneeling during the National Anthem. Broncos teammates and coaching staff support his protest.
“I’m not here to respond to the hate. I’m here to spread love and positivity. I’m a likable guy. I was once a fan favorite for a reason,” Marshall said. “I’m still doing what I believe in. It’s not going to make lose any sleep.”