Now that the Broncos have decided to stand together for the national anthem, can everybody around here get back to hating the Oakland Raiders, instead of shaking an angry fist at the ungrateful millionaire athletes or our rabble-rousing president?
“Football and politics, it doesn’t mix,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said Thursday. Decrying the heated argument over anthem protests at NFL games as “toxic,” Joseph announced the team has made a decision: “Let’s get back to playing football. Let’s get back to standing for the anthem.”
Is everybody OK with that? If not, and you are so incensed at linebacker Von Miller and his teammates for taking a knee at Buffalo that you’re inclined to forsake tickets for Denver home games or throw Broncos gear in the Dumpster, kindly let me know. I’ll find somebody that has never experienced the thrill of seeing a Denver game in person or can put that No. 58 orange jersey to good use.
“Everybody wants to be angry, man. It’s almost like people want there to be division,” Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe said. “We just need to come together and figure out the issues that we have in this country. We can fix them together.”
Let’s start small. After Joseph met with more than a dozen players on the team’s leadership council, they voted on what to do during the playing of the anthem when Oakland visits Denver for an AFC West showdown that Wolfe labels a must-win game.
According to cornerback Chris Harris, not everybody in the locker room agreed with the decision to stand Sunday for “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to kickoff against the Raiders. But the majority ruled, and the Broncos put aside their differences, choosing to be united in orange rather than bicker about red, white and blue.
The Broncos have moved on, because fighting for fighting’s sake doesn’t accomplish anything, except maybe to raise everybody’s blood pressure. Here’s hoping Donald Trump was taking notes on the selfless nature of true brotherhood. Here were football players in Denver, acting more adult than the president of the United States. Is this a great country, or what?
The decision for the Broncos to stand was not prompted by fear of a fan boycott that Trump has advocated, or by the declining television ratings plaguing NFL broadcasts.
Hate to break this to any of the nearly 80,000 folks on the Broncos’ waiting list, but there has not been a single request to close a season-ticket account by a fan upset over Denver players taking a knee, according to Patrick Smyth, the team’s executive vice president of public and community relations. After 32 Broncos knelt during the anthem at Buffalo, the TV ratings for the loss to the Bills were sky high in Denver, producing the highest audience share of any league team during the third week of regular-season play.
But I was contacted by Mike Cope, a Broncos fan upset by disrespect for the flag, wanting to know if he could get a refund for two tickets he bought for three home dates on the team’s schedule. Cope told me he owns two seats in Section 134 against the Bengals in November that cost him $334.
So let’s make a deal. I will gladly buy the tickets from Cope and take a military veteran as my guest. Or maybe better: Give the tickets to a vet and a fan sympathetic to the fight against social injustice waged by Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall, so two fans, divided by the anthem debate but united in orange, can sit together and talk out their differences between cheering for touchdowns by the home team.
The anthem protest did shake some among the Broncos faithful to the core. Carl Willis, from Pagosa Springs, told me he wanted a divorce after a 40-year love affair with his favorite NFL team. “My wife and I own many pieces of Broncos clothing, which we always wear on ‘Broncos Sunday.’ No more,” Willis said. “Nor will I watch another game.”
If any fan wants to revoke Broncos Country citizenship over the national anthem, I fully understand. Patriotism is bigger than football.
But tell you what: Rather than toss that old No. 7 or a new No. 88 Broncos jersey in the trash, give it to me and I will be certain to find a child less financially blessed than you to wear it on NFL Sundays.
Hate the Broncos forever because they refused to stand for the anthem? OK. Send your unused tickets or unwanted jerseys to me.
I’m here to help. And here to call your bluff.