Brandon Marshall implored journalists in a dramatic press conference on Thursday to let the “process play itself out” and to “gather all the facts before…playing judge and jury” on embattled NFL players.
The Chicago Bears wide receiver took the podium at team headquarters in Lake Forest, Illinois, and spoke for 39:53–click here to see the entire thing, uncut, on the Bears’ website–talking about his troubled past, his mother, his legal problems, the NFL, Ray Rice, and more.
It’s a remarkable testimony from a man who’s been at the center of his share of controversies, but who, in 2011, admitted to a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and has been seeking treatment. Marshall has also become an advocate for those with mental-health issues.
What appears to have prompted all this was the airing of a slightly reworked 2012 ESPN E:60 profile on September 16 that angered Marshall. He particularly objected to how it dealt with his rocky and, at times, allegedly violent relationship with ex-girlfriend Rasheeda Watley. In 2009, Marshall was acquitted on charges of misdemeanor battery against Watley, who later brought a civil suit in 2012, which was dismissed.
According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, Marshall declined to participate in the updating of the E:60 profile, so ESPN included interviews with him that were from two or more years ago.
NFL Network viewers can watch another version of the story, when a new profile of Marshall airs on Friday, September 19, as part of the series, A Football Life.
Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred inserted herself into Marshall’s story and the NFL’s current spate of legal trouble involving domestic violence by holding a press conference in Atlanta with Watley’s father and one of her friends. Allred had no new information to add to the case but announced she was going to pass her personal recommendations along to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Marshall brought a packet of information for the assembled journalists at the press conference, containing legal paperwork that detailed his volatile relationship with Watley, including statements from “judges and bailiffs,” letters from people connected to Watley demanding money from him, and a letter from a therapist that dealt with the couple, which he read aloud.
Marshall’s main point was that due process must be allowed to run its course, and that the league, the press, and the public shouldn’t pass judgment on a player without being in full possession of the facts.
“This is unpopular,’ he said, “what I’m doing, and there’s going to be a lot of people criticizing me, but it’s been six, seven years, and I haven’t said anything. I thought giving this stuff to the network, to ESPN, they would tell the right story, just to show my side, to show both, so everyone can learn and grow from this. They didn’t choose to do that.”
He continued, “I say this, without this information out, someone doing their due diligence, we’re going to put ourselves in situations where our guys, or even our women, can be condemned off a he-say/she-say, and that’s not fair.”
But Marshall didn’t sugarcoat the past with Watley, saying he was the cause of “75 percent” of the problems, “because I was young and dumb and immature.”
“It was a very volatile relationship,” he said. “We argued every single day. We treated each other bad. We had no business being in a relationship. It was just disgusting, the situation that we kept ourselves in.”
Marshall talked about his own mother, whom he said had been abused and sexually assaulted, and whom he helped seek treatment at the Betty Ford Center.
“My mom was isolated,” he said. “My mom was an alcoholic. I grew up, and I saw a lot of pain in my mom’s eyes. I saw a lot of suffering. And the scariest thing was how my mom was isolated for years. I didn’t know what that was. I thought my mom was just a mean person at times.”
He added, “Domestic violence is serious, and I saw how it affected my mother. I saw I how it affected our generation, and even my nieces and nephews. There are things that my mother, and our family, are still working through because of it.”
Marshall said that, despite the drubbing the NFL has taken over its handling of allegations against players of abusing women or children, the league is in a position to make a difference.
“My view on the NFL and this current climate we’re in?” he said. “I think it’s a shame. But I do love and respect what we’re doing because, the NFL, we all know, has the ability to transform lives, to transform communities. We have influence to really shape and mold a culture. So these issues, whether we’re wearing lime green on the field”–symbolic of mental-health awareness–“or pink, orange, whatever, I think that’s sweet. I love it, because the amount of awareness and the amount of influence we can have can really dictate a lot.”
Marshall began his press conference by saying he considers controversy to be “an opportunity, a platform to talk about some of the issues that really need to have light shed on them.”
And some of the issues have cultural roots, when behaviors learned in childhood prove difficult to shake. “It’s not just an epidemic in the NFL,” said Marshall. “It’s really an epidemic in our world. So I would just say to pay attention. Because the more we talk about it, the more people are going to heal, the more healthy conversations are going to get started, and we’ll begin to see things change.
“To be honest, there are some communities and some people who really believe it’s OK. Some people believe it’s OK to be in a relationship where there’s fighting and there’s arguing and there’s yelling because that’s all they’ve seen. That’s why I always say that you’re a product of your environment.”