DENVER — When 19 Broncos players out of the team's 53 stood during last week's national anthem, the team wasn't completely united in action. From here on out, the Broncos will stand united.
In a statement from the players, released on Thursday, the group said they felt the display across the league — where at least one member of each NFL team protested social inequality following comments by President Donald Trump — was powerful and unified.
"It was an emotional time for everyone, including the fans who support us each and every week. As controversial as it appeared, we needed to show our collective strength and resolve," a note from the players read.
The players clarified their protest for members of their fan base who felt they disrespected the U.S. military and the flag by kneeling or linking arms during the anthem.
"We have nothing but the deepest love and respect for those who protect our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy as Americans," the message read. "While there's no greater country, it's not perfect. Inequalities still exist, and we have work to do in ALL forms of social justice. We can all do better. We may have different values and beliefs, but there's one thing we all agree on: We're a team and we stand together — no matter how divisive some comments and issues can be, nothing should ever get in the way of that." "
Following the protests, Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway said he understood the message his players wanted to convey, but personally believed in standing for the anthem.
This week, Joseph met with roughly 20 players who are on the Broncos leadership council. The council includes linebacker Brandon Marshall, who is known for kneeling last year and using the platform to spur change with the Denver Police Department.
According to Broncos insider Troy Renck, who confirmed the meeting, that's where the team determined they would stand together moving forward. It was not an unanimous decision. Players discussed the issue and adopted this approach. Multiple players refused to go on camera to talk about the decision, though coach Vance Joseph said "everyone is on the same page."
"We talked about it as a team just, like how we did before Sunday's game. I am a huge team guy. We are all huge team guys," Von Miller said. "We felt like that was the best direction to go. It wasn't an apology or anything like that. We just wanted state what happened and where our minds where. I think that's where the confusion comes from. We wanted to set the record straight with fans on why we were doing it and move forward."
Defensive end Derek Wolfe, one of 19 players who stood for the anthem, said the team was not fracturing over the issue. They met face-to-face -- "Don't you wish the world could do that?" he opined -- and moved forward.
"You have to just sit down and have a conversation with each other about what's the end goal and then get back to playing football," Wolfe said. "That's what it's about."
From now on, the Broncos plan to stand together as a team. That begins with the game against the Oakland Raiders.
"Starting Sunday, we'll be standing together."
— What the Broncos and Head Coach Vance Joseph had to say after practice on Thursday —