ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Thirty-two Broncos players took a knee during the national anthem Sunday ahead of their game against the Buffalo Bills. Star outside linebacker Von Miller was among them, and locked arms with inside linebacker Brandon Marshall.
Rookie left tackle Garett Bolles stood next to Miller and placed his hand on Miller's shoulder. Kicker Brandon McManus and outside linebacker Kasim Edebali did the same as teammates knelt next to them.
Cornerback Chris Harris took a knee and raised his left hand in the air. Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett and tight end Virgil Green both stood with their fists raised.
Joseph broached the subject of protest directly and succinctly during the team's Saturday night meeting. He told his players he supported them. He encouraged them to stick together and emphasized a focus on the game ahead, against the Bills. However they wished to address the matter, he would have their backs.
In the near-36 hours since President Donald Trump called on NFL owners to fire “son of a bitch” national anthem protesters, then doubled down on his stance via social media, NFL executives, owners, coaches and players responded with strong comments in support of their game and their athletes.
Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis issued a statement to reiterate the team's support of its players and “admiration for their dedication to making our team the absolute best it can be.” He didn't name Trump, nor did he mention the president's comments. General manager John Elway also spoke to Joseph and has been involved in the team's discussions and handling of the matter internally.
Many other teams convened Saturday evening to decide what they would do before their games Sunday, be it a protest or show of unity or nothing at all. Before the Jacksonville's game against the Ravens in London, Jaguars owner Shadid Khan, who donated $1 million to Trump's presidential campaign, stood with his arms locked with tight end Marcedes Lewis and linebacker Telvin Smith. Dozens of players from both teams kneeled during the anthem.
“I met with our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump, and was honored to be arm in arm with them, our teammates and our coaches during our anthem,” Khan told reporters after the game. “Our team and the National Football league reflects our nation, with diversity coming in many forms - race, faith, our views and our goals. We have a lot of work to do, and we can do it, but the comments by the president make it harder. That's why it was important for us, and personally for me, to show the world that even if we may differ at times, we can and should be united in the effort to become better as people and a nation.”
Over the past year, as many have taken Colin Kaepernick's lead and kneeled for the national anthem in protest of social injustice and police brutality, not all players across NFL locker rooms have agreed with the protests.
Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe was among those who stood for the anthem Sunday. He made it clear he believes in standing out of respect for service men and women. But he's also offered his support of his teammates who have decided to protest. Marshall kneeled for seven games last season and lost a pair of endorsement deals and received numerous hate-filled and threatening messages from fans.
“Him getting hate mail like that, that's also disgusting,” Wolfe told The Post. “Why do you want to take a step back as a human race? We're all the same. We're all human beings. It's OK to be different.”
In a statement to ESPN's Josina Anderson on Sunday morning, Wolfe said: “I stand because I respect the men who died in real battle so I have the freedom to battle on the field. Paying tribute to the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom is why I stand. But everyone these days likes to find a reason to protest and that's their right. It's America and you are free to speak your mind. I just feel it's disrespectful to the ones who sacrificed their lives and it's maybe the wrong platform. But like I said to each their own it's AMERICA! The greatest country in the world and if you don't think we are the greatest country in the world and you reside here, then why do you stay? A lot worse places in the world to call home. Proud to be an American.”