Marcus Ball was cut two days after making a gesture of unity during the national anthem during his Carolina Panthers debut in 2016.
In a first-person account for Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB of his protest and subsequent events, Ball believes his release two days due to him raising his hand in the air and pointing towards the sky.
But I also acknowledged the protests and recent events that had been building around the country and recently in Charlotte. (That very week, a black man had been fatally shot by a police officer in the city.)
I didn’t realize it, but I was the only guy on the team to make any sort of gesture that day. There was nothing organized; I didn’t discuss anything with anyone. It was just in my heart that day to thank God for the opportunity and to reflect on the excitement that had built up inside me.
Asked about it after the game, I had a two-word answer. “One love,” quoting the late Bob Marley. My point: It was a time in the country where I believed we needed unity, where we all needed to come together as one in the culture, and in the country.
Ball feels it was team owner Jerry Richardson who ordered his release.
I walked into the facility, walked upstairs and, as I expected, I was told I was being released and my contract was being terminated. I questioned the motives immediately.
I then had to ask: “Am I getting released by Big Cat?” I asked, referring to our owner, Jerry Richardson.
“Oh, no, no, no,” I was told.
I had my doubts. I know Richardson didn’t want players following Colin Kaepernick’s lead and protesting. I knew he didn’t want players wearing dreadlocks, which I did.
After allegations of workplace misconduct, Richardson will put the team up for sale at the end of the season.
My suspicions about my release from the Carolina Panthers came roaring back last month when I read the allegations against Jerry Richardson. The Sports Illustrated story mentioned an African-American scout who left the team after Richardson used a racial slur. All this is coming out, and I know I’m not the only one saying “Told you so.”
I’ve thought about that every single day since then. Would I do it again? The answer is “yes.” One people, one love, one unity. Peace. I stand for that now, more than ever. It’s a shame that clearly, not everyone feels the same.
Ball played five games for the San Francisco 49ers to finish the 2016 season. Then he returned north to become an inspirational leader on the Argos defence that won a Grey Cup in 2017.