No Obamamania for Brandon Marshall

All Brandon Marshall wanted was the opportunity to be part of the moment. The Denver Broncos wide receiver wanted to feel connected to the thousands who have flooded into the streets and the millions in a state of shock and awe around the world, celebrating the election of Barack Obama.

Marshall's plan was to score a touchdown on Thursday night and then take out a black-and-white glove and hold it up to the sky. "I wanted to create that symbol of unity because Obama inspires me, our multi-cultured society," he said after the game, choked with tears. "And I know at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico,Tommie Smith and John Carlosraised that black glove in that fist as a silent gesture of black power and liberation. Forty years later, I wanted to make my own statement. I wanted to make my own statement and gesture to represent the progress we made."

Unfortunately, we will never know what would have happened, or how the crowd would have reacted. We will never have that image of a football player bringing politics to the field. Marshall did score a touchdown, but as he removed the glove from his pocket, his teammates stopped him.

The problem was that Marshall's touchdown came with only one minute and twenty-two seconds left to play, putting the Broncos ahead, 34-30. His teammates--particularly fellow wideout Brandon Stokley and tight end Tony Scheffler--saw what he was about to do and stopped him, fearful of an automatic fifteen-yard penalty for "unsportsmanlike conduct."

One can be charitable toward Stokley and Sheffler, given the moment in the game--although the image of two white players surrounding a black player to block his political statement is the antithesis of the very ideas Marshall was attempting to communicate.

Yet the reaction from ESPN was even worse. The first talking head back at the SportsCenter headquarters took a shot at Marshall's emotional press conference saying, "Well, the sentiment is exactly right, even if the speechwriting needs some work." His partner then said of Marshall, "It's not about you or what you think. It's about the team and what they need to do." Ex-player turned broadcaster (and sometime soap opera star) Mark Schlereth called it, "The best play of Stokley's career." The Sporting News' Chris Mottram quoted Cleveland based blogger Vince Grzegorek,who called it "Marshall's Moronic Touchdown Tribute to President-Elect Obama."

Grzegorek then wrote of Marshall, "He's not bright, or flat out selfish, or a combustible mixture of the two."

There is no question that Marshall was taking a risk. There's no question he could have cost his team the game.

His coach, the stone-faced Mike Shanahan, has a written rule about not bringing politics into his all-business locker room.

Marshall could have risked the ire of the NFL, known as the No Fun League for cracking down on any hint, any whiff, of individuality on the part of players.

But maybe Marshall thought that the moment was more important than the game. Maybe he looked at basketball players like Kevin Garnett, who had the slogan "Embrace Change Vote '08" written on his sneakers, or Carmelo Anthony, who said that he would score forty-four points Wednesday in honor of the forty-fourth president. Marshall wanted to be part of the energy that has inspired more pro athletes to take part in this election cycle than ever before.

Instead of derision, Marshall merited our respect--sports fan or not-- which should actually be exponentially higher since he was willing to take this risk when the game was on the line. The image of a pro football player raising a black-and-white hand to the skies forty years after Smith and Carlos and two days after the election of a black president in a country built on slavery could have echoed through the ages. Someone should tell the suits and ESPN: some things are actually more important than sports.

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the reactions

i can understand his teammates being opposed to it at that point in the game. i don't agree with it, but i can understand it.

but for broadcasters and journalists to be so offended is ridiculous. especially considering he didn't do it.

and how can you not bring politics onto the field when you have to stand for the national anthem before the game?

Brandon Marshall

Dave,
You might look at the Denver Post's coverage of Brandon Marshall and other Bronco's involvement in Obama's election. They ran at least two very favorable articles on their involvement in the week before the election. Several Bronco's spoke out and there was no hint that they were being blocked by the coaches.

Brandon Marshall: Say it Plain!

The larger pro ball gets, the smaller it seems. Marshall was riding a wave of energy so huge that the Brocos remain a pimple on the face of time. I recall a great player in the NBA (first name Abdul) who refused to stand for the National Anathem. He was finally shown the exit fromthe league. I hope in vain, it seems, that the gargantuan businesses cease squelching the individuality of the players and any political expression. Human beings play. Their lives and destinies do not exist apart from history.
Shame on the entire sports establishment.

ESPN

I don't think the first ESPN talking head meant any harm with what he said. After the game, Marshall was emotional, but at the same time he was reading directly from a piece of paper; I don't think he was ciriticizing the message so much as the delivery.

Black power!

I had on the game without sound and somehow sensed that Marshall wanted to make a pro-Obama statement. I deeply admire him for it. Mike Shanahan's rule (about no politics in the locker room) is in itself political. It endorses the status quo. As for ESPN, they lost my respect long ago. Shame on them once again.

Not just Shanahan

But the owner who employs his stone face. Pat Bowlen, a long-time Republican party financial contributor.

Man, I wish Marshall had done it with a quick camera shot of Bowlen looking on unamused from the luxury box above. That would tell you in a few seconds where this country truly stands.

You're free, but wait...

For some reason this reminded me of 40 million dollar slaves...

It's unbelievably hypocritical for ESPN to chastise this young man for wanting to make a gesture to show how significant the obama victory is in the political/social/cultural landscape of this country. How ironic that they gave that ESPY to Tommie and Juan this year but crapped all over any athlete who even hinted at wanting to make a statement on the human rights violations by the olympic host country, China.

Can somebody "change" ESPN now

I find it ironic that ESPN analysts and anchors offer opinions and criticisms rather than objective news information, then routinely belittle players who attempt to offer their opinions on various topics. Talk about arrogance!

Although I agree some (most) things are more important than sports, I don't think Brandon Marshall's statement was significant enough
to risk losing this game. It would have been cute, but not a lasting, impactful political statement.

Meanwhile, in the CFL....

The entire receiving corps of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers celebrated Obama's victory (and a touchdown during their playoff game vs. Edmonton) last Saturday by pulling up their jerseys to reveal 'Obama '08' T-shirts.

ESPN is so terrible

Thanks for pointing out their anti-political politics. Funny though that Marshall's multicultural statement -- hardly radical -- about unity is derided by analysts, fans and teammates. Should we be more scared that warm fuzzy, anti-political rhetorics of multiculturalism are outlawed now?

Let's not get it twisted...

I respect the hell out of what you do and what you stand for, Dave, but sometimes your angle is so damn predictable. As soon as I saw Marshall's press conference and the ensuing (and, mind you, indefensible) analysis from ESPN I thought, 'I bet Zirin does a column about this.'

No athlete should be barred from his moment, stripped of his opportunity to make a statement. And yes, Mark Schlereth's post-game blather was an exercise in sports-broadcast hypocrisy at its finest. But come on. If Marshall "wanted to feel connected to the thousands who have flooded into the streets and the millions in a state of shock and awe around the world, celebrating the election of Barack Obama," he could have joined the public at an election rally or expressed his joy to the media elsewhere.

To me it's pretty evident that Marshall's intended moment, his preconceived statement, was more about getting his name out there than celebrating Obama's, or marking a truly historical moment. Had Stokley not stopped him, would it have been exciting, memorable and perhaps even poignant? Sure.

But John Carlos and Tommy Smith it was not. Let's not get so caught up in the euphoria of the moment that we lose our perspective.

Not such a cut dry issue

Even though I feel that he is on the field to help his team win, and must conduct himself accordingly, the saddest aspect of this issue is that Marshall was the only black player in the entire league, let alone his own team contemplating this.
These athletes may live a great life they have absolutely no power. Why is there a celebration rule to begin with, to curb the black players actions on the field to make the game more palatable to the white audience. If a player wanted to wave an American flag in the endzone would the NFL have the guts to stop them? And would media have the guts to criticize the player as well.
As long as superstars like Tiger, Jordan & Jeter keep grinning for the camera as their pockets get fat while continuing to be gutless and unconscious the trend will continue.

what the NFL considers unsportsmanlike

The fact that Marshall's teammates were concerned about this act drawing a penalty is not without merit. I vividly remember a Giants-Bears Sunday night game from two years ago when Brandon Marshall, then expecting his first child at any moment scored a touchdown and celebrated his impending fatherhood by tucking the ball under his jersey and rubbing it in tribute to his wife, something even the announcers knew. He still got a 15-yard penalty because according to the officials "he used the ball as a prop". This is the same league where the Houston Oilers once saw fit to fine a player for missing practice because he wanted to be present for his wife delivering their child.

No Change

The thing that is sad is Obama is going to continue the Bush Doctrine. He lied he is not going to end the war. He was for the big Bankster bailout and said the bankers should get all the money and no help for people losing there houses. The banks are using the money for bonuses and buying other banks. Obama is not going to repeal the patriot act and wants a civilian force to spy on Americans as big as the military. You can watch him saying it on youtube. I don't support McCain but Obama isn't going to change anything except for the worse. He will expand the war in Afghanistan and you will pay carbon taxes.You Obama Zombies are going to be saddened when you wake up.

I agree with Brad, no change

President select Obama! and there is no typo, is different from the 43 presidents that preceeded him in complexion only. American capitalism is nothing but corporate imperialism and the founding fathers of this nation has advised its citizenry to overthrow the government if ever they were to achieve this end. Since the corporate imperialists have seized control of the government it doesn`t matter how many times you change the president the relationship of power remains the same. I conclude my statement with quotes from the Honorable Father Lawrence Lucas and the Honorable El Haij Malik El Shabazz.. Father Lucas said, "I admit that Barack sounds good in all of his rhetoric but I have to remember that my mother told me that action speaks louder than words. Look at Barack`s actions..." El Haij Malik El Shabazz said, "They`re playing a giant con game, a political con game, you know how it goes. One of them comes to you and make believe he`s for you and he`s in cahoots with the other one that`s not for you, why? Because neither one is for you but they got to make you go with one of them or the other. So this is a con game and this is what they`ve been doing to you and me all these years." To Barack`s credit he does seem to understand that the change that he`s talking about will have to be the result of the people mobilizing and putting pressure on the government which as Howard Zinn has stated is the only way the government has ever served the interest of the people. Democracy vs imperialism, the people vs the corporations, Power to the people!

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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