Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall wants to build bridges with police after becoming the latest black athlete to stir controversy for silently protesting during the national anthem.
Denver Police Chief Robert White met with Marshall for close to an hour Tuesday morning to discuss how policing affects people of color — and to also find common ground.
"This was an opportunity, to use a football analogy, to move the ball forward," White later told reporters.
White stressed that he does not specifically endorse the anthem protest, but was open to speaking with Marshall because of the chance to create dialogue and describe the "good work" that officers of the Denver Police Department are doing.
"His kneeling was to speak to the injustices ... in our country," said the police chief, who is also black. "He also recognizes that most of the men and women in law enforcement are out doing the right thing every single day. It's that small percentage that’s a challenge for our police department."
Marshall has said taking a knee during the Bronco's season opener last week was meant to bring attention to racial oppression in America — coming after 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing his own protest by sitting on the bench during the national anthem last month.
Marshall and Kaepernick were fraternity brothers and teammates at the University of Nevada.
Marshall has seen two companies yank endorsement deals so far and someone burned a shirt with his name in front of the Broncos' headquarters.
White said Marshall peppered him with questions about why officers don't seem to be charged or indicted in controversial cop-involved deaths of black men and women.
"My response is to Brandon, while many people, and maybe even you, Brandon, are asking why the officer got off when it appears he or she broke the law … the question that you’re really asking is, 'Were those actions necessary?'" White said.
The police chief added that he has offered to show Marshall police simulation programs so that he better understands the life and death situations cops are confronted with daily. For his part, White said, he realizes that fixing the problem of faulty policing will require cultivating a stronger relationship with residents.
Marshall did not immediately comment about the meeting with White. He told The Associated Press on Monday that he plans to kneel again during the Broncos game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Two companies — a Colorado credit union and telecom provider Century Link — have dropped Marshall as a celebrity endorser. But hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons announced this week that he would "find the money" to hire the pro footballer in an endorsement deal for his prepaid debit card, the RushCard.
"He is a great American hero/athlete," Simmons wrote on Instagram. "I am eternally grateful for his and other athletes courage in standing up against injustice."