After catching a go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the Denver Broncos 34-30 win at the Cleveland Browns Thursday night, Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall attempted to pay homage to President-elect Barack Obama by pulling a black and white glove out of his pants that he intended to put on and raise in a symbol of American racial unity.
Only before the receiver was able to do so, veteran teammate Brandon Stokley rushed over to Marshall and convinced him not to because of the 15-yard celebration penalty it would have gotten his team at a most inopportune of times.
“Barack Obama’s election as the 44th president of the United States is a tremendous symbol of unity,” Marshall said after the game. “I want to create that symbol of unity because Obama inspires me and a multicultural society and I know at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised that black glove and fist in a silent gesture of black power and liberation.”
Marshall’s planned celebration was intended to honor the racial progress made in America in the decades since the act by Smith and Carlos.
“Forty years later, I wanted to make my own statement and gesture to represent the progress we made,” Marshall said. “I might get some criticism, but social landmarks are bigger than fines to me, especially two days out of an historic election.”
Stokley’s penalty saving run may have stopped Marshall from making his planned political statement, but it hasn’t thwarted a media firestorm that has both applauded and disparaged his decision.
“You know how you yell at your kid sometimes for breaking rules for the right reasons?” said Chicago Sun Times columnist Greg Couch. “All the while, you’re proud of what he had done. It’s too bad Marshall didn’t get to finish his moment Thursday night in Cleveland. It would have been history.”
Others meanwhile, have applauded Stokley’s potentially game saving decision.
“Stokley not only saved Marshall from those fines, but probably saved the country from a couple of days of culture-induced hysteria,” said Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke. “The Broncos would have kicked off from deep in their territory, and, with 1:14 remaining, the Browns would have been set up for a potential winning drive.”
Marshall meanwhile has shown no disappointment about his celebration that wasn’t.
“I still got to say what I wanted to say. This is a historical moment, not just for black people but for the United States.”
Ultimatley the idea that Marshall even attempted to make such a statement has remained in America’s conscience.
“People aren’t going to remember the action,” said Weston High School History Department chair Bill Moeder. “They are going to remember the idea. Two days after the most historic American election in generations, Obama’s impact has carried over to the sports world. A culture of look at me athletes is telling America to look at what’s happening in Washington. That’s a statement in itself.”
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