ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Former Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, a college teammate and longtime friend of Colin Kaepernick’s who kneeled for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before eight games in the 2016 season to protest excessive use of force by police and social injustice, said he hopes people are now ready for what his and Kaepernick’s message was almost four years ago.
“Back then, we were called rogues, people said that we didn’t deserve jobs, but this is what we were talking about then,” Marshall said Monday. “I think people are looking at [Kaepernick] now like, ‘OK, maybe he knew.’ People didn’t want to hear the message after, ‘Oh, they were kneeling.’ They didn’t want that message, weren’t ready for it, didn’t listen.
“I hope, and I look at it, I hope people are ready for the message. I really hope they’re ready for change.”
Marshall said he has spoken to Kaepernick in recent days in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis and the protests that have followed across the country.
“We talked some about what’s happened — and this is why he started the Know Your Rights foundation — and I asked him if he needed me to do anything or what I could do to help,” Marshall said. “He said right now, at the moment, he’s concentrating on legal assistance for the protesters, but we’ll talk more moving forward.”
Marshall, who played six seasons for the Broncos, including in the team’s Super Bowl 50 win, lost several endorsements after he kneeled pregame during the 2016 season. He also met with Denver Police officials in the weeks that followed about the department’s policies on use of force.
He said Monday that “at times you do get tired, weary, of it happening over and over again,” but he is still hopeful based on what he has seen in protests in Las Vegas, where he is now, and what he has seen across the country.
“That’s what brings change — people coming together, when it’s a people thing, not just a black and brown thing,” Marshall said. “You see people taking to the streets, it’s a mixed crowd. It’s not just black people. It’s everybody. That is what it takes for change. Everybody has to care about it. Back then, not everybody cared about it.”
“We need everybody to care about this, not to see it as just a black or brown problem,” he added. “When people see this as a people problem — and not a black person’s problem or a person of color’s problem — then we can have real change. I look at all of the faces in the real, peaceful protests, and I see maybe we’re ready to listen now. Maybe we’re ready to see it as a people problem and that real, lasting, effective change can happen.”
NBA legend and longtime social activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar echoed Marshall’s thoughts on Kaepernick with the current landscape in mind.
“There’s been a lot of talk of how horrible the rioting and looting is,” Abdul-Jabbar said in an interview with Scott Van Pelt on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “That is no way to demonstrate, but people should think about the fact that Colin Kaepernick tried to demonstrate peacefully. What did he get? He got ostracized and lost his job. He was blackballed. That was a peaceful protest about an issue that is very real, and no one could acknowledge that.
“We have to get to the point where we take these people seriously and acknowledge the wrongs that they are trying to identify and right them. That’s the way that we make progress.”