Taking a Knee
On Thursday night the NFL season began. It was a great game. The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers met in a re-match of Super Bowl 50. The Broncos won 21-20, and there was a lot to talk about after the game.
But one of the most frequent topics was about something that happened before the kickoff even took place. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall knelt along the sidelines as the National Anthem was performed. It was a silent act of protest, and one that's become common at sporting events throughout the country the past few weeks.
It began with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who not only sat on the bench during the National Anthem but made some bold statements about the racist and inequitable nature of law enforcement. Kaepernick's words and actions haven't been received well.
Marshall, for his part, was standing up for his former college teammate, in part, but had a very different view. He espoused respect for law enforcement and the military, but shared that he was opposed to social injustice. He talked about his plans to donate to veterans and military groups and explained that his decision was personal and based on a personal conviction.
Unsurprisingly, Marshall lost an endorsement deal on Friday. He's received criticism and derision. But why?
I don't agree with what Marshall did. If it was me, I would not have done the same. But I'm a 35-year-old white male. I have never, and can never, walk a mile in his shoes. I've never lived in fear that I'd be stopped and harassed by cops because of the color of my skin. America is different for me, and always will be.
But one thing is the same — we all have the freedom of expression. Marshall exercised his rights, as so many others have, and was eloquent in his response to questions from the media following the game. But to so many, that doesn't seem to matter. And that's part of the problem.
My favorite movie of all time is "A Time to Kill." It has many powerful themes, but among them is the idea that justice isn't equitable because of racial divisions. The book was written in the late 1980s. The movie was released in 1995. It's been 21 years, and things aren't significantly better. Different, maybe, but not better.
Marshall didn't denigrate anyone. He wasn't violent. He didn't make a spectacle. Out of a sense of personal conviction, he knelt on a sideline. He's not a villain, and the fact that he's treated as such for exercising his constitutional rights is part of the problem.