FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — All voices should be heard. But that doesn’t mean everyone needs to speak, said Brandon Marshall.
As the nation’s polarizing presidential election gave way to a surprising Donald Trump victory, NFL players were polled for their reactions. And therein lies the problem, the Jets receiver said.
“The challenge with athletes is thinking that they have to speak on everything,” Marshall told Newsday during a quiet moment at his locker on Thursday. “I think they’re feeling the pressure from society. There’s been a call to action for athletes to stand up and use the platform. But that doesn’t mean you need to talk about minimum wage when you know nothing about that. You don’t need to talk about policy when you know nothing about policy.
“If politics isn’t your thing, that’s OK. But people feel ashamed, they feel like they’re going to be judged,” he added. “But if that’s not your thing, that’s OK. If race isn’t your thing, that’s OK. If cancer’s not your thing, then that’s OK. It’s OK not to have an opinion.”
Marshall stressed that the “right people” should be the ones voicing their opinions instead. “The people who are passionate about it, the people who are informed, the people who feel like that’s their purpose in life, or that’s their place, those are the people that should stand up,” he said. “You don’t want anyone just going out there giving their opinion, because if they’re misinformed, they’re hurting the movement.
“ . . . A lot of these movements are so important, there are so many people affected by it. I want the right people standing on the table for Black Lives Matter, mental health, injustices, the cancer community, the LGBT community, religion, race. You want the right people talking so we can get the right information out there so we can not play into the stigma, but break the stigma or break some of these shackles and bonds that’s been holding a lot of us back.”
The call for athletes to use their influence to effect change is nothing new, and the criticism of those who choose not to is well-documented.
“Before Colin Kaepernick, there was a call to action,” Marshall said, referring to the 49ers quarterback who has protested racial and social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem this season. “Athletes challenged athletes. Media challenged athletes. Society has challenged athletes. So I think that we have been put on notice to be more aware, be more conscious — the ones who aren’t. Because there were a lot of athletes that were and still are.
“It’s no longer, ‘Just play football.’ People have to embrace athletes’ opinions, whether they like them or not. And they can’t say, ‘Well, you’re just an athlete.’ ”
Marshall typically doesn’t shy away from voicing his opinion, but he admitted that he made a mistake this week by not dismissing questions about the election. Asked about Trump’s victory on Wednesday, he told reporters that it’s “a good thing” to see a “flawed man leading the country” because “we expect perfection and that’s not the case.” Many took his comments to mean he voted for Trump, but the receiver never divulged whether he was a Trump or Hillary Clinton supporter.
Marshall noted that he’s “not afraid” to share his political views, but “I’m not going to put myself in a position to where things can be misinterpreted. And I kind of did that [on Wednesday] by trying not to get into it and leaving things open-ended. And that’s what we don’t want to happen.
“There’s certain things like politics, like religion, where you need more than five minutes,” he said. “ . . . Especially in this election, there’s so many different things involved in this, from race to women, and it goes on and on and on. And sitting in the locker room in front of a group of reporters for five minutes is not the platform. Now if we had 30, 45 minutes or an hour to have an open discussion, that’s different.”