Former NFL P Marquette King Helps Clean Phoenix Streets

Howard Balzer

Marquette King is not your normal punter. He marches to the beat of a slightly different drum and simply loves to have fun. OK, many would say that’s true of all kickers.

But King is a rarity as an African-American punter who currently is without an NFL opportunity after playing six seasons for the then-Oakland Raiders (2012-2017), one with the Denver Broncos (2018) and then this past February and March in the pandemic-shortened XFL with the St. Louis BattleHawks.

Still, King, back home in Phoenix, managed to find a new “team” last Sunday, the morning after protesters hit the downtown streets in the aftermath of the alleged murder of George Floyd.

He told AllCardinals and 590 The Fan Radio, “I was just laying in bed and it kind of seemed like a bad movie, bad dream. I woke up, saw the stuff that was going on and thought, ‘So, these folks are really breaking people's stuff?’ Like, first of all, so many people work so hard at what they've done, accomplished over life. And that's the part that I don't understand. People breaking other people's stuff that they work so hard for, for so long. And the people’s stuff that you're breaking, you don't even know if they're on your side or not. And that's the part that I didn't get. You might be breaking into like a pawn shop or restaurant and the owner or the people that work there are on your side, but then you start to mess that up.

“So I'm like, 'Man, you know what? This doesn't represent everybody.' Just like the bad police officers that you see don't represent all the police officers in this country. So, I'm like, 'You know what? Let me just get my ass out of bed. Let me get some gloves. Let me have some curls real quick. Make sure if anybody still out there, let me just do some good for the community.'”

King tweeted with a peace sign, “It’s a better way to do this so check this out! Since I’m a resident of AZ I’m gonna be in Downtown Phoenix around 10ish with gloves and trash bags cleaning up the city. All races are welcome to come clean the city with me. Officers should come too. Let’s get to kno each other.”

He said, “I invited police officers because I think all people want to do is see police officers are personable and are human just like they are and that's why I invited police officers in so that way we can all talk and communicate because you can't communicate with people that are angry, it's hard to get something across like that. And that was my goal to get everybody together.”

He was joined by a diverse group of helpers, including former Arizona State and NFL cornerback Robert Nelson, and they worked for several hours cleaning up trash and scrubbing paint off windows and walls.

King tweeted afterward, “Today was a success. #GeorgeFloyd was a believer in peace and love as well as myself n everyone that was out here today helping people in Phoenix. It’s ok to be different! I choose to make an impact in showing love n peace. Make a difference but be smart and calculated.”

King doesn’t plan for his spontaneous invitation to be the last thing he does to help promote change.

He said, “I'm going to keep building to try to get to that point to where people and the people that are working with the law can get together because that's all that needs to happen. We need to create some kind of companionship and, like a football locker room, to get people together. Because there’s always a weird person on your team that you don't understand and you think, 'I don't like him.' Well, the only reason you're thinking that is because you don't understand them. Same reason why I'm probably not in the NFL right now.

“And when you actually take the time to get to understand who people are and get the chance to talk to them and know who they are, then your perception of the person changes and you don't have to depend on what you see from a distance. Right now, the way that police officers are being perceived, are that all of them are bad, and all of them are not bad. Everybody just needs to take time to understand each other, and that's going to create some kind of change and then you'll be able to progress to the next step.”

I read part of a statement to King made by Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie this week, who said, “I have spent a great deal of time over the last few days reflecting. Listening to my own heart; listening to others. At times, I have too many words. At times, I have no words. But silence is not an option.

“I am heartbroken and repulsed. There are no words strong enough to describe the horrific deaths and injustices that the black community continues to endure. We as a human race are valiantly struggling in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in our country, we have been battling a relentless social pandemic for our entire history.

“Systemic racism, discrimination, violence and oppression of minorities, it has been our past, and it is our present. It remains who we are. We need to be honest with ourselves and own that. We are all part of the solution. It starts with us. We need to look inward and open our hearts. We need to ask ourselves and others, what can we do to help?”

So, I asked King if he is emboldened by the strong white voices speaking out in recent days.

He said, “You definitely have to have a gift to see it from different points of views and he obviously said something that's pretty true. And that's very unfortunate that a lot of things are based off of that because I've had conversations with friends where it's like, man, some people act like you can come out of your mom's womb and choose what color we want to be. Like, you don't have a choice. And I've always known there is no such thing as stereotypes because, especially the first time I've seen a black person listen to rock and roll music; no sense! I mean, everybody's different and I hate that people define people based off of color.”

King has experienced racial profiling and his father, Marquette Sr., was a police officer. And while he lives life somewhat “fearless,” he says, “You can’t live life scared.” He wants to do good and knows there’s no magic bullet, no sudden overnight success.

He concludes, “Sometimes it takes things to get worse before they can get better. But it takes time for things to grow, for people to grow, for situations to grow. It's got to be down before it can go up.”

Marquette King is usually “up.” And that’s a good thing.