Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton stood still for nine minutes. He rested on one knee for nine minutes and looked down at the ground. On Saturday, the professional football team of a city and its residents gathered for nine minutes.
After a march through downtown, nearly 50 Broncos players and 20 coaches stopped outside the Denver Performing Arts Center, along with hundreds. The plaza was packed to protest racial inequality and police brutality, nearly two weeks after George Floyd died in Minneapolis custody, his head pinned to the tarmac for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
And if there was one unforgettable image, it was Sutton, the back of his T-shirt who said, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” When it was quiet, Sutton and the rest of the protesters raised a fist and shouted, “I can’t breathe!”
The Broncos’ primary goal: show support, as security Kareem Jackson said Tuesday when he suggested the idea of a march.
“Us here together as a team is powerful,” said linebacker Alexander Johnson when the march began. “We’ve been communicating over the past few weeks and every conversation, good or bad, is good because it helps build unity.”
During his speech, safety Justin Simmons, who flew for the Florida event, said, “We’re playing for the Denver Broncos, but we’re not here today as the Broncos. I’m here today as Justin Simmons, a member of the Denver community. “
Players and coaches met at the Hilton Denver Inverness to board buses to the Colorado State Capitol. A semi-complete list of those present ran the length of the depth chart. Black and white. Young and old. Established Broncos and those new to the franchise.
Veterans: Sutton, Jackson, Johnson, Royce Freeman declining, Shelby Harris defensive ending, Justin Simmons safety, De’Vante Bausby cornerback, Jake Butt tight ending, inside linebacker Todd Davis and outside linebackers Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, DeMarcus Walker and Jeremiah Attaochu.
Young players: Quarterback Drew Lock, left-wing guard Dalton Risner, center Patrick Morris, receiver Dionate Spencer, cornerback Davontae Harris, outside linebackers Justin Hollins and Malik Reed and tight ends Noah Fant (with his dog), Andrew Beck and Austin Fort.
New players: Defensive ending Jurrell Casey, backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, punt Sam Martin and tight ending Nick Vannett.
Rookies: Recipients Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler and outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka.
And coaches: Vic Fangio, coordinators Pat Shurmur (attack), Ed Donatell (defense) and Tom McMahon (special teams) and position coaches Curtis Modkins (running backs), Zach Azzanni (receivers), Wade Harman (tight ends), Bill Kollar (line of defense)) and Chris Kuper (assistant offensive line). President / CEO Joe Ellis was also present.
The Broncos gathered on the east side of the capital and started their walk to the Civic Center Plaza.
Attaochu, Simmons, Johnson, Bausby, Miller, and Davontae Harris all targeted protesters.
Attaochu led the crowd in prayer before talking about his upbringing after arriving from Nigeria.
“Growing up in the inner cities of Washington, D.C., I saw my black siblings and what it was like to go to terrible schools because of my hometown,” said Attaochu. Fortunately for me, I was blessed with the ‘No Child Left Behind (Act)’ and went to a better school. That gave me a better chance and a better outlook on life.
“As players, we are here to be agents of change when it comes to policy and really participate in the way this country works. That’s the only way we can solve it if we use our voice to express ourselves speak about policies for things that don’t enable our people to be successful and have a chance at life. “
Simmons, nominated for the Broncos’ Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2019 for his charitable endeavors, thanked supporters’ from the bottom of my heart ‘for their presence and commitment.
“It is a privilege to come back here to show the support for our community because you have shown your support to us,” said Simmons. “I work the same way you do, trying to find solutions for a better life for the black community. I want to challenge both sides of the spectrum. My white brothers and sisters, it is important that you are here and that your voice becomes heard and that it matters. “
Simmons urged his “black siblings to keep fighting the good fight. Listen, I understand the sadness and I understand the pain. I’ve seen it. I was part of it. But I tell you, hatred doesn’t drive hatred. We have to make sure we stick together. This makes a difference. ‘
After the five players completed their speeches, the Broncos and protesters marched a path from Colfax to Lincoln, 14th Street, Fox, Glenarm, 16th Street, and Champa before finally arriving at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
Along the way, players picked up bottles of water from volunteers stationed on the sidewalks and offered demonstrators to walk alongside them.
At 2:48 PM, the audience was silent for nine minutes to honor Floyd.
The community was affected by the presence of the Broncos as much as the Broncos were influenced by the community.
Attaochu concluded his impressive speech saying, “You cannot put a plaster on old wounds. Too much oversight, police brutality, hate, racism – that’s all built by the system, and the younger generation is tired of it. We want real healing. We must heal as a country. ‘