LAS VEGAS (FNN SPORTS) – The Denver Broncos linebacker was honored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education over the weekend for his work to combat domestic violence, spur changes in the Denver Police Department’s use of force policy and for his public stance against police violence by kneeling at his football games for eight weeks straight.
With his mother by his side, the 27-year-old Las Vegas native thanked the university for his inaugural Alumni of Color Conference Courage Award and said that besides playing, social activism was his calling.
“To me, the knee was a symbol of what was wrong and what we’re facing with police brutality,” Marshall said. “I feel like God put it in my heart for a reason.”
Marshall said he his heart was beating out of his chest when he first knelt during the National Anthem.
“I really decided the day before the first game that I was going to take a knee,” he said. “I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t even tell my mom.”
However, Marshall’s protest put him on the receiving end of a backlash from fans. He lost two endorsements, caught flack from the higher-ups on the team and began receiving racist letters and threats. But he said he never once considered not continuing to kneel.
“All in all, I feel like I did the right thing,” Marshall said. “There was a lot of backlash, but I said, ‘I’m gonna keep going.’…I felt it in my heart that I was doing the right thing.”
He added: “It was nerve-wracking, but I kept doing what I believed in,” Marshall said. “I kept my faith.”
The school also honored Marshall for his work around raising awareness of domestic violence, which his mother was a victim of, as well as lobbying the Denver chief of police to revise the department’s policy on its use of force.
“If we all do our part where we live,” he said, “it’ll all come together.”
Marshall said he isn’t stopping his community work and plans to host a camp that focuses on “respecting women.”
“I feel like I want to teach the young men how to respect women,” he said. “I feel like nobody is doing that. I want to talk to kids 12 to 18 where they can go either way. I want to tell them, just because a woman is wearing this, doesn’t mean you can treat her like this.”
Mike Dixon is a sports and entertainment contributor in Las Vegas for
Florida National News / FNN News.TV