While Marcus Peters needs to own up to his share of the drama, Chiefs Kingdom is actually largely to blame for the unnecessary fire ablaze right now.
If you are reading this and taking offense, it’s likely because the truth hurts.
Let me say up front that I realize not every member of Chiefs Kingdom has a lit torch in their hand as they simultaneously try to find their pitchfork. Some, even many, Kansas City Chiefs fans are reasonable people. These are the fans who can, for example, appreciate Alex Smith’s contributions to the team while, at the same time, be excited about the Patrick Mahomes era. They don’t resort to “trade him” or “fire him” tweets 10x every Sunday.
Unfortunately, the most unreasonable among us have united in a dominant voice when it comes to Marcus Peters. Every week we hear numerous calls to get rid of Peters, as if a GM simply calls for an exterminator to come and get rid of a pest inside of Arrowhead. To this point, Peters has been saddled with more negative baggage (both earned and unearned) in a single season than I can remember a player enduring for some time. (That is, of course, outside of quarterback, since that position always draws the ire of everyone.)
Now, I would be silly to defend Peters to the hilt, claiming that he is completely innocent of any and all charges against him, so to speak, in the court of public opinion. We’ve all watched the inconsistency. We’ve all watched emotion get the best of him. We’ve all raised our eyebrows at what seems to be an unwillingness to tackle here and there.
So, if you need me to say it here, I will say that Peters is partially at fault for his own public relations mess and he needs to own it:
- It is never okay for a player to make obscene gestures to a fan. (I also happen to think that fans need to not act like stupid, drunken idiots at sporting events, but a person can only hold out so much hope for folks at Raiders games.)
- It is never okay to take a play off.
- Generally speaking, being in control of one’s emotions is better than being out of control of one’s emotions.
My father always told me, “Look, whatever you do, just be classy.” I think that’s behind some of what Chiefs Kingdom wants from Peters.
If you’re going to play professional football, then play football like a professional.
All of that said, however, let’s get to the real issue: the (unreasonable) fans.
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Peters entered the NFL with a banner overhead reading “character concerns.” It was applied to him for good reason, given his attitude and actions while at the University of Washington. Post-draft press conferences ensured Chiefs Kingdom that the coach and front office did every homework assignment on the kid and came away believing in his talent and his heart. He’s emotional. He’s passionate. He’s also a world class cornerback.
Two seasons into his career, Andy Reid and company had been proven correct. Peters had been a solid teammate and good citizen in addition to setting historic marks as a young ballhawk, earning Pro Bowl nods and accolades as perhaps the best young cornerback in the entire NFL. His instincts, athleticism and swagger were such a potent cocktail for the Chiefs secondary that, despite a conservative offense, fans became used to the postseason.
But this year, everything changed. This year, in which all of us are used to everything being reduced to talking points and memes. This year, in which we turn on TV stations categorized as “news” but are really nothing more than sibling rivalries in suits and dresses. Even our sports television options have been reduced to stupid hot takes, one after the other, where blowhards like Skip Bayless are paid millions of dollars to say something asinine—just to stir the pot.
Within this argumentative, reductionistic culture that Peters’ own emotional outbursts and controversial behavior has ignited a fire that never should have burned this brightly. For example:
1. The national anthem controversy is a complex issue, one in which we’d all do well to understand the highly-charged emotions on both sides. For those offended by players not adhering to some proper behavioral code, we would do well to truly listen to the concerns of those slighted and to pay attention to the cause(s) to which they’re trying to point with their actions. At the same time, we would also do well to truly listen to the hearts of those offended, to continue to speak with honor and appreciation for our servicemen and servicewomen and to partner together to create meaningful dialogue.
In place of this lack of meaningful dialogue, Peters has been labeled with a number of anti-American, classist and racist remarks that shut him out without ever letting him speak. Chiefs Twitter allowed this narrative to stick so quickly that calls for trading Peters or cutting him outright has been a thing since this issue first came to prominence—let alone Peters other concerns.
2. Peters is young (24). How was your attitude and behavior at 24? Wait, let me ask that in a different way. How was your attitude and behavior when filled with adrenaline and placed in primetime at 24? The Chiefs are losing for the first time ever. They’ve lost on-field leadership. The entire team is searching for an identity, and after starting out on the mountaintop, they just might be in danger of missing the playoffs completely.
Given his passionate play and emotional history, Peters threw a flag. He threw a flag. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve gotten upset in a sporting competition and threw the basketball at the wall or kicked the soccer ball far off the field or… you get the idea. Emotions often get the best of us and some of us have stronger coping skills than others. It’s just the nature of things.
Here’s the real concern, at least for me. It’s possible for the narrative around Peters to be that he’s had a bit of an emotional or even off-year marked by inconsistent and emotional play, coupled with a startling drop in talent around him. In other words, Peters doesn’t look as good this year because the Chiefs don’t look as good this year (and vice versa).
It’s there that the narrative could (and should) have stopped. Instead, every little thing that Peters does and says (or doesn’t say) has become fuel for the fire. Every missed play. Every touchdown allowed. Every emotional outburst. They’re all piled atop the blaze created by unreasonable fans who have been calling for the Chiefs to get rid of an elite, 24-year-old cornerback who makes up 1.7% of the salary cap—all because they’ve decided they don’t like what he stands for.
Even worse, they never even asked him for reasons in the first place.
Marcus Peters needs to own his share of the problem, but the more mature section of Chiefs Kingdom needs to turn to the unruly side and tell them to calm things down, to lay down the silly mantras and reductionistic narratives and exaggerative labels.
The fire shouldn’t be this bright and it might be put itself out if Chiefs Kingdom would stop piling more kindling on top.