Broncos players announced Thursday they will stand for the national anthem starting Sunday when they host the Raiders.
“Last week, members of our team joined their brothers around the NFL in a powerful display of unity,” the players said. "It was an emotional time for everyone, including the fans who support us each and every week. As controversial as it appeared, we needed to show our collective strength and resolve. Our voice needed to be heard loud and clear.
“We may have different values and beliefs, but there's one thing we all agree on: We're a team and we stand together - no matter how divisive some comments and issues can be, nothing should ever get in the way of that. Starting Sunday, we'll be standing together.”
The team’s leadership council - which is composed of about 20 players including Brandon Marshall, Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Brandon McManus - convened Wednesday after practice to discuss their plan going forward.
"It wasn't an apology or anything like that. We just wanted to state what happened, where our minds were,” Miller said. “I think that's where the confusion comes from, especially with the fans. We just kind of want to set the record straight why we were doing it and exactly the reasons why and just move forward."
Last Sunday in Buffalo, 32 Broncos players knelt during the national anthem as a response to President Donald Trump’s comments that NFL owners should fire “son of a bitch” protesters. Some players stood with their hand over their heart. Others stood with their fist raised. A few others stood with their hands placed on the shoulders of kneeling teammates.
The Broncos were among more than 200 players across the league who took a knee during the anthem last weekend in the wake of Trump’s comments. Some teams refused to take the field during the playing of the anthem, while other players, as well as NFL owners, linked arms.
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The decision to stand for the anthem was not unanimous by Broncos players, just as it wasn’t unanimous to kneel last Sunday.
"Not everybody is going to agree with everything,” Harris said. “It's a majority-rule team here. We all made votes. We all made a decision and the majority won."
Players from many teams, including the Broncos, have said that their protests this past weekend were not about the American flag or the military or the national anthem, but a show of disapproval of Trump’s comments and inequalities in the United States.
The Broncos' players emphasized that message Thursday.
“Make no mistake - our actions were in no way a protest of the military, the flag or those who keep us safe. We have nothing but the deepest love and respect for those who protect our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” the statement read. “While there's no greater country, it's not perfect. Inequalities still exist, and we have work to do in ALL forms of social justice. We can all do better.
“It starts with us. We need to do our part and use our platform as NFL players to continue driving that positive change. Our locker room is one diverse place, and that's what makes it so special. It's where thoughtful, intelligent leaders from all different races, religions and backgrounds come together.”
Broncos general manager John Elway told the team’s website during his weekly address that he believes in standing for the anthem and that “hopefully, as we go forward, we can start concentrating on football a little bit more.”
“I believe that this is the greatest country in the world. We are very fortunate to live here, but it’s obviously not perfect,” he said. “There are a lot of things that need to be corrected, and we will continue to work on those things. I’m one that really believes in standing for the flag. I understand the players and the way they felt from the comments that were made earlier in the week. They felt that they had to go down and kneel and that’s up to them.
“Take the politics out of football. But I think that last week was a good show of unity by the NFL and hopefully this week we can move forward.”
Head coach Vance Joseph offered a similar message; he too believes in standing for the anthem and has defended his players’ right to peacefully protest. He reiterated that their actions were not directed toward the military and said the decision to stand again was solely the players’.
“It was an open-forum conversation,” Joseph said. “We have not forced these guys to stand. We've all said it: It's their right to have a silent peaceful protest. And that's what they've done. It was their decision and it's their statement and, moving forward, it's their football team.”
Joseph said the “platform was not working” and the original intent and message behind the silent protests were lost amid the mass demonstrations through the NFL.
“It was making this whole issue confusing to the fans, to the military, to the players, to the coaches. No one had clarity," he said. “So I think changing the platform in the future - I'm not sure what it is now - but changing it in the future will help us make positive change.”
A message from our players: pic.twitter.com/eQs3z7OcqV
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 28, 2017