SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Broncos general manager John Elway respects the right for NFL players to protest the national anthem as long as it doesn't interfere with his team's success.
He revealed his position Thursday following the Broncos' second day of joint workouts with the San Francisco 49ers.
"My stance is that everybody has their right to do what they wish to do and their beliefs are their beliefs. That's why we live in this country. They have the right to display whatever they wish to display. I think one thing — where we stand and where I stand with the Broncos — is, 'That's OK and we will respect that and whatever you want to do is fine with us. But the bottom line is that can't get in the way with our main goal. And that is to compete for world championships,'" Elway said.
"I just don't want that pulling away from our team. It can pull (you) away, because it does get a lot of attention. The only thing that I would say to our players is to make sure it's not hurting your teammate. If the questions and everything — if the tenor changes of what goes on in these interviews and you're not talking about our next opponent, you're talking about what's going on in the world — that's not the best thing for our football team."
Elway's response lasted nearly a minute. He emphasized player choice is tolerated, but must come with a view of a larger picture.
"So I only advise or tell our players this: I respect where you stand. But when you're doing anything, just understand what it's doing to our football team. I want these guys to understand we're football-first and we want to win football games. If we do that, everything's going to be fine. With that being said, I still respect that they have the right to do what they wish to do. But I just hope that when they do those types of things, that what they take into (account) is to think about their teammates first."
Elway was also asked about linebacker Brandon Marshall's protests last year. Marshall kneeled during the national anthem for nearly half the season, but used his position to raise awareness of social issues and create dialogue with the Denver police over their training methods.
"Brandon made a point last year, but he carried it forward. He just didn't make a stand on the field. He went out in the community and did something and talked to different people," Elway said. "He talked to law enforcement and got involved. I was proud of Brandon. Not only did he show his support but he went out and did something in the community."
Marshall saw Elway's praise on Twitter following practice. In an exclusive with Denver7, Marshall told Denver7 it meant a lot.
"It felt great!" he said via text. "I honestly never knew how the organization felt about what I did."
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