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Brandon Marshall defends his patriotism

Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 08: Inside linebacker Brandon Marshall #54 of the Denver Broncos looks on in the first half against the Carolina Panthers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 8, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

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The NFL, which officially will not require players to stand for the national anthem, unofficially has linked standing with patriotism, which by implication means that anyone who sits or kneels isn’t patriotic.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has taken issue with this in relation to comments from Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. On Friday, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall offered similar observations on his own behalf, a day after he opted to kneel for the anthem.

“As far as my patriotism, we have freedom of speech in this land.” Marshall told reporters. “You can do whatever you want to do; that’s the beautiful thing. I can have my own beliefs. I can do what I want to do, so at the same time people can question my patriotism, but I have the utmost respect for this country, for this land and the military. I’m not against any of those entities at all.

“As far as my patriotism, I think that shouldn’t be in question because I’m just upholding my rights. I can protest peacefully. I can stand or sit. I can say what I feel like saying. That’s what our military has fought for, the ability for everybody to be themselves and to be their own person. I’m just exercising that right and I will continue to do that.”

Others have exercised their right to criticize Marshall. He saw plenty of it on what Al Michaels aptly refers to as “anti-social media.”

“I definitely got more negative,” Marshall said. “It’s tough because I didn’t read all the comments. I had so many comments on Twitter and Instagram, I couldn’t go through all of them. I had a lot of positive text messages, but as far a social media, I had a lot of negative, racist comments. A lot of people calling me the ‘N’ word and calling me all kind of derogatory terms. It is what it is. There is a lot of hate out there. I’m not here to spread hate or negativity, I’m here to spread positivity.”

It’s unclear how long Marshall will spread his message in this specific way.

“One of my coaches asked me, he supported me, one of the coaches said, Look, I support you, but what is the end game?’” Marshall said. “He said, ‘Are you going to do this rest of your career? The rest of the season? A couple more games?’ I think that’s a very valid question. This is something that’s been going on for so long. They always do the national anthem at every game, at every sporting event. Once I come up with a good plan, like I said, I’m going to donate. I’m going to do some things in the community. I’ll figure it out.”

Marshall’s head coach didn’t know the player was planning to kneel.

“I told [coach Gary] Kubiak because he was blindsided; nobody knew really about it,” Marshall said. “I told him, ‘I didn’t really want to create a distraction for the team.’ We have one goal and that goal is still to win football games. The goal was to beat Carolina, so why create a distraction in the locker room? I kept it to myself. And, we won the game.”

The potential distraction is now there for the next 15, or for as many as Marshall will decide to keep kneeling.

“I just want people to stand up for what they believe in and stand up for what they feel is right,” Marshall said. “I feel this is right. I’m hoping that other players will take a stand as well, but not just take a stand, but actually actively do something in the community.”

The official count of NFL players who have chosen not to stand for the anthem is now at four. On Sunday, it will be harder for players to sit or kneel, given that it’s the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Come Monday night -- especially in the Rams-49ers game -- it will be interesting to see how many players choose not to stand for the anthem.