Hypocrisy stands at the root of my issues with embattled Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall. His freakish strength and unparalleled ability to create plays after the catch do not mitigate his criminal record. It is the NFL’s duty to discipline Marshall when he steps out of line. As long as Marshall beats a criminal charge and escapes the League Office, it is legitimate that he dresses on Sundays. Protest the franchise, burn a jersey, or even picket on the stadium’s steps, but rest assured that nothing will keep Marshall out of the starting lineup if he is healthy and unsuspended.
It is nevertheless damning that Marshall continues to surface as a suspect in domestic abuse cases across the country. It is far too easy for Marshall to settle these disputes inside or outside of a courtroom for us to not remain at least cautiously critical of his character; I know Harvey Steinberg nodded his head and smiled when he read this last sentence. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ may allow Marshall to remain on the field and earn his living, but our common sense should forbid him from advising children.
This is not to say that a person who has erred greatly does not deserve a second chance. Remorse at the hands of deep reflection occasionally qualifies a public offender to tell others cautionary tales about what not to do. Our city however can no longer trust Brandon Marshall. His “genuine” remorse expired two arrests ago.
Marshall has always managed to avoid jail time. He has also managed to worm his way back into the positive spotlight time and time again. His publicist and the Denver Post have made all of this possible. But enough is enough. If the judicial system exonerates Marshall and Roger Goodell clears him to play, so be it. He is nothing more than an All-Pro wide receiver on an offensively depleted roster. As a fan, I hope he continues to score touchdowns in orange and blue. I also hope for his sake that he earns a fair salary, considering he risks his life every time he steps onto the turf. Yet, I hope most of all that Denver ceases to offer him the opportunity to say he is sorry.
This is the only way that Marshall will ‘get it’ from here on out. The prepared statements Marshall reads to reporters and releases through his attorneys can no longer suffice. The Denver Post needs to remove itself from this public relations fiasco by saying “no” to Marshall’s publicist. Articles about Marshall’s involvement with Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives should never again appear in an issue of the Post. The kids at ODYGA deserve better from Marshall and their city’s paper. Both have used these at risk kids as PR pawns. Celebrity athletes only get one shot at being a mentor. Marshall failed. The media therefore must stop trying to turn Brandon Marshall into a positive societal story.
Casting Marshall as a mentor is partially what got us to this point of no return. The media and the Broncos tried to convince the public that Marshall is something he is not: a humanitarian. He is nothing more than a confused athlete with anger management issues. Though he has never been proven guilty, he has lost his credibility within our city. He publicly apologized and promised he could change. More importantly, Marshall used ODYGA as a road to redemption. Yet, he continues to let all of us down. Why would we want to be aware of anything this man thinks beyond his postgame reactions on Sundays?
Laud Marshall’s on-field courage and feel free to label him an athletic specimen, but it is best to refrain from speculating about his off-field persona. Stick to football-related questions when it comes to Number 15 because that is all he understands. Plus, we have already devoted far too much spotlight to his questionable character, poor judgment, and pithy public apologies.
We can focus on the box score and forget about the humanitarian formerly known as Brandon Marshall, but how does a fan put morals aside and pull for an athlete like Marshall? What, if anything, does a professional athlete owe his or her fans and community?
These are pertinent questions as JR Smith enters the penitentiary, Michael Vick is released from federal custody, and Marshall heads to training camp in a week and a courtroom later this fall.
Charles Barkley once said, “Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” Chuck was absolutely correct. It is not a professional athlete’s responsibility to raise a community’s children. Parents must teach their children to distinguish right from wrong. Furthermore, an NBA power forward’s job is to perform in the paint, not educate local youths or volunteer on all his off-days. Though athletes can significantly improve a community by organizing charity events and spearheading positive local causes, it is ultimately an athlete’s personal decision whether he or she embraces community activism.
The general public often forgets this crucial fact because fans and media are so quickly lost amidst the fortune and fame of professional sports. It is nonetheless important to bear in mind that these gifted men and women are still individual citizens. They (usually) pay their taxes just like the rest of us, which entitles them to choose their own path and spend their money as they see fit. It is therefore naïve and idealistic to assume all player contracts are social contracts, as well. As long as an athlete fulfills his or her league and/or team’s community service requirements and obeys the law, the public cannot condemn an athlete for not exerting extra humanitarian effort.
By extension of Chuck’s logic, it becomes the public’s duty to highly scrutinize those professional athletes who have publicly sought and accepted roles as mentors within our community. We should commend athletes who uphold their public promises and remain consistent by criticizing those who fail to meet the lofty, well-publicized expectations they set for themselves. The integrity of our city hinges upon our collective ability to wade through celebrity rhetoric, discerning right from wrong, the genuine from the fraudulent, and the faces we can trust from those that will only let us down.
Furthermore, human experience demonstrates that few things are more frustrating and potentially harmful than teachers who neglect to practice what they preach.
Brandon Marshall and JR Smith are like family members who you secretly dislike, but you are obligated to treat with civility. The NFL and NBA League Offices are your grandparents, and the Broncos and Nuggets’ management are only your mother and father. As long as your grandparents keep a relative in the family, no one else can kick him or her out. You do not have to love these players or respect their personal choices, but you might as well try and make the best of their performances in Denver.
That said, feel free to say whatever you like when your bothersome “relatives” are not around…or when you are not watching the game of the week.
The citizens of Denver are entitled to hold the city’s professional athletes to a certain standard of decency. A season ticket holder obviously reserves the right to complain about any member of the organization he or she has invested his or her money in; this goes for rude ushers and subpar chefs, as well as criminal shooting guards and abusive wideouts. However, Colorado’s non-season ticket holders and non-sports fans also deserve to be heard.
The citizens of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson County have paid $11.45 annually since 1991 to subsidize the construction of Coors Field; this tax expires in 2011 or when the stadium is paid off. The city of Denver gave the Broncos a $15 million stadium site for $1, and we tax ourselves a penny on every $10 spent in metro-Denver to pay for the field Brandon Marshall makes his money on. Pat Bowlen and Co. only paid for 25% of the new $400 million Mile High Stadium, while taxpayers agreed to contribute over $250 million to the project.*
Also, do you recall what happened to the sale of the Avalanche and Nuggets during the months before the Pepsi Center opened in 1999? Mayor Wellington Webb successfully blocked Donald Sturm’s purchase of the Avalanche, Nuggets, and Pepsi Center. Sturm refused to include a clause in the sale that prohibited moving the Avalanche and Nuggets out of Denver for the next twenty-five years. Webb argued that the city of Denver had every right to be weary of selling these franchises to Sturm, considering the millions of dollars taxpayers had contributed to the teams in tax breaks, infrastructure costs, and other subsidies. Of Mayor Webb’s actions, author Dennis R. Judd wrote, “The city’s ability to veto the Sturm deal gave it leverage over future sales; it also indicates that other cities can establish conditions on selling publicly subsidized facilities that can enhance their odds of gaining a return on these investments.”
The Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche, and Rockies are privately owned, but they are still public entities. The jerseys our city’s pros don represent more than the organizations they play for. Those logos are funded by your tax dollars, giving you the right to critique each and every player in Denver.
All that I ask is that we criticize carefully. Consider all of the facts and occasionally put yourself in an athlete or owner’s shoes when forming your own opinions. The Broncos should not trade Brandon Marshall because the NFL League Office has not significantly punished him. He has a discouraging off-field track record, but the Broncos still need to satisfy their fan base by winning games and making the playoffs. Furthermore, the Denver media can limit Marshall’s celebrity by refusing to publish stories about his personality. In the mean time, the public can do and say whatever it wishes.
Just do yourself a favor and heed your mother’s advice: think before you speak.
* Figures taken from Dennis R. Rudd’s 2003 book The Infrastructure of Play: Building the Tourist City