Broncos players, coaches show support for community during downtown march – The Denver Post
For nine minutes, Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton was motionless. For nine minutes, he rested on one knee, looking down at the ground. For nine minutes on Saturday, a city’s professional football team and its citizens joined as one.
After a march through downtown, nearly 50 Broncos players and 20 coaches stopped outside the Denver Performing Arts Center, joined by hundreds. The plaza was packed to protest racial inequality and police brutality, nearly two weeks after George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, his head pinned to the asphalt for 8 minutes, 46 seconds.
And if there was one unforgettable image, it was Sutton, the back of his T-shirt saying, “If You Ain’t With Us, You Against Us.” The moment of silence completed, Sutton and the rest of the demonstrators raised a fist into the air and chanted, “I Can’t Breathe!”
The Broncos’ primary objective: Show support, as safety Kareem Jackson said on Tuesday when suggesting the idea of a march.
“Us here together as a team is powerful,” inside linebacker Alexander Johnson said as the march began. “The past few weeks, we’ve been communicating with each other and any conversation, good or bad, is good because it helps build unity.”
During his address, safety Justin Simmons, who flew from Florida for the event, said: “We play 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.”
The players and coaches met at the Hilton Denver Inverness to board buses to the Colorado State Capitol. A semi-complete list of who attended ran the length of the depth chart. Black and white. Old and young. Established Broncos and those new to the franchise.
Veterans: Sutton, Jackson, Johnson, running back Royce Freeman, defensive end Shelby Harris, safety Justin Simmons, cornerback De’Vante Bausby, tight end Jake Butt, inside linebacker Todd Davis and outside linebackers Bradley Chubb, Von Miller, DeMarcus Walker and Jeremiah Attaochu.
Young players: Quarterback Drew Lock, left 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 end Jurrell Casey, back-up quarterback Jeff Driskel, punter Sam Martin and tight end Nick Vannett.
Rookies: Receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler and outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka.
And coaches: Vic Fangio, coordinators Pat Shurmur (offense), Ed Donatell (defense) and Tom McMahon (special teams) and position coaches Curtis Modkins (running backs), Zach Azzanni (receivers), Wade Harman (tight ends), Bill Kollar (defensive line) and Chris Kuper (assistant offensive line). President/CEO Joe Ellis was also in attendance.
The Broncos gathered on the east side of the capitol and began their walk to the Civic Center Plaza.
Attaochu, Simmons, Johnson, Bausby, Miller and Davontae Harris all addressed demonstrators.
Attaochu led the crowd in prayer before speaking of his upbringing after arriving from Nigeria.
“I grew up in the inner cities of Washington, D.C., and I saw my black brothers and sisters and what it was like to go to terrible schools because of where I was living,” Attaochu said. “Luckily for me, I was blessed with the ‘No Child Left Behind (Act),’ and got to a better school. That gave me a better opportunity and a better view on life.
“As players, we’re here to be agents of change when it comes to policy and really taking part in the way this country works. That’s the only way we’ll fix it, if we use our voices to speak out on policy for things that aren’t allowing our people to be successful and have a chance at life.”
Simmons, the Broncos’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2019 because of his charitable efforts, thanked supporters “from the bottom of my heart,” for their attendance and effort.
“It’s a privilege to come back here to show the support for our community because you showed your support to us,” Simmons said. “I’m working the same ways you’re working, 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’s important you are here and your voice is heard and it matters.”
Simmons urged his “black brothers and sisters to keep fighting the good fight. Listen, I understand the grief and I understand the pain. I’ve seen it. I’ve been a part of it. But I’m telling you, hate does not drive out hate. We have to make sure we stick together. This is making a difference.”
After the five players completed their speeches, the Broncos and demonstrators marched a path from Colfax to Lincoln, 14th Street, Fox, Glenarm, 16th Street and Champa before eventually arriving at the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
Along the way, players grabbed bottles of water from volunteers stationed on the sidewalks and offered them to demonstrators walking side by side with them.
At 2:48 p.m., the crowd became silent for nine minutes to honor Floyd.
The community was impacted by the Broncos’ presence as much as Broncos were impacted by the community.
Attaochu concluded his impressive address by saying, “You can’t put a Band-Aid on old wounds. Over-policing, police brutality, hate, racism — that is all built by the system and the younger generation is tired of it. We want some real healing. We need to heal as a country.”