I know I’m not the only one who wondered why more black athletes didn’t have Colin Kaepernick’s back during the height of his national anthem protests. But the NFL isn’t merely a sport—it’s a job—and former NFL receiver Brandon Marshall admits that providing for his family prevented him from participating.
“The first thing that came to my mind, and I’m just being honest, was, ‘I got a mom that don’t work. I got a sister with four kids that don’t work and I’ve been taking care of for 10 years. If I take this knee, what will happen?’” he admitted on the I Am Athlete podcast. “And I remember feeling so broken and so hurt that that was the first thing that hit my mind. ‘Do I kneel for the entire community, or do I stand for my mom, my brother, my sister?’”
“And looking back on it, I am ashamed that I didn’t take that knee. But I am so excited now about with the video that just came out with the NFL players because now I feel like they don’t have to make that decision. They don’t have to think about that anymore. If they want to take a knee, you think Nike’s going to drop them?”
The video Marshall’s referring to was released last week and features some of the biggest names in the league, such as Patrick Mahomes, Odell Beckham Jr., and DeShaun Watson, demanding that the NFL condemn racism and admit that it was wrong for silencing players who peacefully protested.
“We will not be silenced,” they say in the video. “We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn’t take this long to admit.”
In response, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a video of his own doing exactly that.
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” he said. He also went on to admit that the league was wrong for not listening to players earlier, encouraged them to “speak out and peacefully protest” and asserted that Black Lives Matter.
Despite Goodell’s willingness to oblige, it’s impossible to look past the fact that at least three white players—former Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper and current players Richie Incognito and Jake Fromm—have been involved in racially-charged incidents that include Cooper spewing, “I will fight every nigger in here” outside of a Kenny Chesney concert in 2013, Incognito allegedly hurling homophobic and racist slurs at teammate Jonathan Martin in the same year and Fromm being exposed last week for texting that gun suppressors should be reserved for “only elite white people.”
Each was allowed to resume their NFL career.
Also, how can you condemn racism in a league that had to create elaborate protocols just for black people to even get a damn job and that boasts a grand total of zero NFL owners despite its player pool being 70 percent black?
And while Goodell insists that players can “speak out and peacefully protest,” do we really want to bring up Colin Kaepernick? Or the fact that national anthem protests remain banned?
This is entirely lip service until the NFL gives Kap his job back and the league ensures that significant changes take place so that players like Marshall would’ve felt comfortable peacefully protesting without jeopardizing their ability to provide for their families.