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Brandon Marshall tackling real problems in urban communities

The linebacker gets most attention for kneeling during the national anthem, but he is trying to make a real difference in the communities he’s fighting for.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Marshall has been an agent of change in Denver - both on and off the field.

And it’s important fans understand that it is both.

On the football field Marshall has been one of many players kneeling during the national anthem as a way to voice frustration over the institutional racism African-Americans face in their communities every day.

It’s a controversial protest and one he has received a lot of flack over.

But Marshall is not just about demonstrations. He is about action and has been working to make Denver a better community ever since he joined the Broncos.

After he first kneeled for the anthem on Sept. 8, 2016, Marshall met with Denver police chief Robert White in what began an ongoing dialogue between urban communities around Denver and the local police. He also pledged to donate $300 for every tackle last season to local organizations committed to addressing “critical social issues.”

And for the past two years, Marshall has organized an Attendance Challenge at local elementary schools, encouraging kids to go to school, learn and use their education.

When he launched the first attendance challenge last fall, it was right after his second game kneeling during the anthem.

He told Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala then that his intent was always to do more than just a protest.

“I’m not just taking a knee. I’m doing other things as well,” Marshall said. “I’m actually doing the leg work. I’m actually coming out to schools, trying to talk to kids and help them to stay in school and listen to their teacher and get good grades and be respectful. I’m trying to help in all facets. It’s more than just taking a knee.”

That first Attendance Challenge was organized long before Marshall first took a knee in 2016, but the linebacker sees both efforts as drawing attention to the same goal - equal civil rights for all so every individual has the best opportunity to thrive.

Although Marshall wishes people would spend more time considering the reasons behind the anthem protest, he won’t stop fighting to help urban communities.

“It just lets me know that we have a long way to go as people,” Marshall said in 2016.

And that’s why Marshall was back at it again this month launching his second annual Attendance Challenge and encouraging kids not to give up on themselves.

While some of you want to burn his jersey for kneeling during the national anthem, consider why he is doing it and at least recognize that No. 54 is putting his time and money - not just his knees - into creating the positive change he is fighting for.

This week the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado certainly did, honoring Marshall with the Leadership and Legacy Chairman’s Award.

Congrats BMarsh, and thank you.