DENVER — As he was preparing to join a controversial national cause, Brandon Marshall kept thinking about his deceased grandfather, Little Roy Williams.
Little Roy Williams was a proud member of the Navy.
“He is my favorite person in the world, bless his soul,” an emotional Marshall told Cox Media Group Friday. “He was a proud Navy man and I’d never not respect him or this country. I respect this country. I thought about him a lot doing this whole decision.”
Marshall said being portrayed as anti-American and unpatriotic is the toughest part of his decision to take a knee during the national anthem prior to Denver’s 21-20 home victory over the Carolina Panthers in a nationally televised game Thursday to open the NFL regular season Thursday.
“That is the hardest part of this,” Marshall said. “I do love America. I want to be here, it’s not about that.”
The Denver middle linebacker followed the lead of his college teammate at Nevada, San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sat or knelt during the national anthem during the preseason. Kaepernick plans to continue to kneel to protest oppression of people in this country and violence by law enforcement. Last week in San Diego, Kaepernick was joined by teammate Eric Reid and Seattle defensive back Jeremy Lane sat during the Seahawks’ final preseason game as a sign of respect to Kaepernick.
Marshall said he’s working with Broncos Vice President of Public Relations Patrick Smyth to strategize what to do moving forward and what the “end game” will be.
Marshall said he’s also working with Kaepernick to plan further action. Marshall said Kaepernick reached out after the game but the two have not connected yet.
Marshall said his social media accounts were flooded by reaction to his protest. He said he received “a lot of racist comments.” Marshall said he is going to try not focus on “the negative.”
“Some say for me to go back to where I came from,” Marshall said. “I want to be here. I am an American. It’s not about not being patriotic; I’m just doing what I feel in my heart.”
Friday morning, Marshall lost his 4-month-old endorsement as a spokesman for Air Academy Federal Credit Union. It is affiliated with the Air Force. Marshall told a large scrum of media he will have to deal with such things.
“That’s a tough one. A lot of people support me, but then I was kind of shocked to read this morning that Air Academy took away my endorsement,” Marshall said. “I guess it was expected because they are a part of the Air Force. That’s where they came from, a branch of it, the credit union. I hope there is not a lot or more consequences to come. I hope there are not a lot more consequences to come, but if there is, it’s what I chose and as a man, I made a decision. I still stand by that decision. If it happens, it happens.”
Denver coach Gary Kubiak and Marshall talked Friday morning. Marshall said he told his coach he didn’t tell anyone of his plans because he didn’t want to be a distraction.
“Me and ‘B’ talked today. We had a good talk this morning,” Kubiak said during his press conference Friday. “Like I told you guys last night, he’s a great kid. He is accountable and always does his job. He did his job last night. Brandon has a right to his beliefs. I’m going to keep us focused on the football. He has always done his job.”