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HT: Broncos’ Marshall & Harris react to the league’s anthem announcement

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A controversial decision, made without players’ input, is drawing the expected response.

NFL: New York Jets at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As you’ve probably heard by now, the NFL instituted a new policy in regard to players kneeling during the national anthem before games.

When creating the new policy, one group that was notably excluded from the decision process was the players, and their union the NFLPA. With the timing of the announcement, some players may not have even known what had happened until the end of their OTA activities today.

The Broncos made cornerback Chris Harris Jr and inside linebacker Brandon Marshall available for media interviews after OTAs today, and predictably the focus was very much on the policy news. Here’s what they had to say, from the interview transcripts:

Brandon Marshall

The Broncos’ inside linebacker was one of the more high profile players participating in the anthem protests. He didn’t mince words this afternoon when asked for his thoughts, “I don’t like it, but that’s my opinion. I don’t like it. I understand it, though. I don’t like it, but I understand it. I understand what they’re trying to protect. They’re trying to protect the shield.”

Continuing, he pointed things back to where the whole controversy began, “The reason that we did this in the first place was to bring awareness to police brutality. That is the reason why we took a knee. That was just a symbol. That was the symbol of what was going on taking a knee. Just like the flag is a symbol for America, right? Taking a knee was a symbol, and the work came after that. [QB] Colin [Kaepernick] has been doing work. I’ve been doing work. [Philadelphia S] Malcolm Jenkins, a bunch of guys have been doing work. To me, the knee wasn’t the end-all, be-all. There should have been action behind the knee, and there was. I feel like it might make people want to rebel. Just like when [President] Trump what he said last year. People rebelled. And let’s be clear, I know they say they’ll fine the team, but players don’t care about that. Players don’t care about the team getting fined.”

When asked about how the locker room was handling the news and what the players’ were saying about it, Marshall pointed out that there hasn’t really been much time for them to process the news and react to it. He added that most of the discussion so far was pretty basic, and often focused on the practicalities. Are you going to stay in or go out? If you’re a starter, do you still go out when they announce the starters? Do you stay in the locker room for the anthem during away games? Etc.

Then came the crux of the matter: Will you stay in or go out? For that, Marshall was noncommittal, saying, “I haven’t really given much thought to what I was going to do. I guess we’ll cross that road when it comes.”

Marshall wasn’t surprised that the NFLPA wasn’t included in the process, “They were never going to engage us anyway. When you really think about it, why would we have a say? I think they should have, right? But I guess they don’t look at us like that to have an input or a say-so in this policy.”

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

But while he’s frustrated with the league, the 6th year linebacker has very different feelings toward his team. He was very positive when asked whether the organization had been supportive of him, “Yes, absolutely. [Former Head Coach Gary] Kubiak, in 2016 when I did it, Kubiak was very supportive. He pulled me into his office and talked to me about it. My [Linebackers] Coach, Reggie Herring, was extremely supportive. He talked to me. [President and CEO] Joe Ellis has been supportive as well. Those guys have had my back. I really appreciate how Kubiak has handled me and how he handled everything. This organization has been good to me.”

Chris Harris Jr.

Harris, a co-union representative for the Broncos’ players, was more philosophical when asked about the decision, “It’s something where they’ve made it clear-cut for us. It doesn’t take away what we do in the community and how everybody is united together in the NFL—how we give back and try to improve every community around the nation. So it’s not going to change what we do off the field. Guys have a clear-cut [policy]. If you’re out on the field, you’ve got to stand. If you don’t want to stand then go stay in the locker room. They kind of gave guys a choice of what to do—they have a choice of what they want to do on gameday.”

He was perhaps slightly more jaded, though, when asked about how the media & fans would respond to players’ decisions to stay in the locker room or not, “We know you all are going to keep the scorecard (laughing). You all are going to say who is going to be out there or not. Guys will still probably be judged in that situation but that’s their choice. There is no telling how many guys are going to be in the locker room. I see it as probably a lot. You all are going to take the score. They made that choice for us. It’s a clear-cut stance that the NFL made and guys can either stay on the field or stay in the locker room.”

“I think so,” he replied, when asked if he wished the league had consulted the players before making the anthem decision, “I think it kind of died down anyway. To come up with the rule this fast—I think it was pretty much over with. They just wanted to make sure it was over with—the NFL—and I guess get us focusing straight on football. If you all don’t take the score about people staying in the locker room then we can just focus straight on football (laughing).”

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

As to whether or not he’ll be staying in the locker room or standing outside for the national anthem? Harris sounded like he was close to making his decision, “I’ll probably be on the field. I like keeping my same routine I’ve done eight years—seven, this is my eighth year. I want to keep my same routine and go out there and make plays.”

But it was a later question that was a bit more unique, and which may have provided some interesting insight into the locker room: How are diverse NFL locker rooms able to work through different opinions to become unified?

“It’s very unique. There are very few sports where you have 53 guys that have to come together. Right now, we’ve got almost 100 players where we’ve got to all work together and all be on the same page. Everybody is from different backgrounds and different ethnicity. It’s just different. You have to learn to work together. Some guys might see it as, ‘I’m staying in the locker room. I’m not ever coming out.’ You have to respect their opinions and they will respect yours. It’s about winning. I think as long as everybody has their mind on just winning a Super Bowl this year—that should be our main focus.”

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