Marquise Goodwin captured the attention of NFL fans and the nation as a whole after an emotional performance in the 49ers’ lone win of the season. Hours removed from his infant son’s death at childbirth, Goodwin scored on an 83-yard touchdown pass before later throwing a crushing block on Garrett Celek’s 47-yard catch-and-run score.
Goodwin’s highlight-reel plays combined with the tragedy of his son led him to instant fan-favorite status among 49ers faithful (and media alike, to be fair). But what many may not know Goodwin for (yet), is the fact that he has been right alongside the outspoken Eric Reid all season long, taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before each 49ers game this season.
Many around the league have mimicked the gesture started by Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the national anthem before NFL games as a way to protest police brutality and social injustice against minorities in America. Goodwin certainly agrees with the premise. However, when he takes his knee, he’s also doing it for a deep-seeded, personal reason, thinking of one man in particular. He thinks of a homeless man struggling with mental illness, roaming the streets of Dallas.
Goodwin thinks of his father.
Accused of a murder he didn’t commit, Goodwin’s dad spent two years in prison before he was finally exonerated. At the time of his release, Goodwin’s family barely recognized him. Goodwin- who wants to keep to his dad’s name and the details of his arrest a secret out of respect- said his father was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Goodwin sees his father’s sad plight as a microcosm of what’s happening in the American criminal justice system today. Incarceration rates for African American men are much higher than for whites, for example. A 2012 study, “Imprisonment Penalty for Young Black and Hispanic Males” published by Sage, examined statistics from 1980 to 2008 and found that Hispanics and blacks receive longer sentences for the same or lesser offenses on average than white offenders with equal or greater criminal records.
Bringing awareness to the inequities of the criminal justice system is one of the many reasons for the current player protests. As Eric Reid puts it, the best characterization of the protest is systemic oppression.
Obviously no stranger to tragedy, when speaking about his father, Goodwin admitted to having goosebumps on his arms.
“I stand for people who cannot be heard, I have a platform where millions, billions of people watch,” Goodwin said. “It’s the opportunity I have to reach a large amount of people in a simple way.”
Goodwin might have more of a platform now after he and his family became a national story on Sunday. He hopes to steer that attention to his Christian faith and to the injustice that visited his family in a very personal way.