Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway on Monday threw his support behind U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
The Colorado star’s endorsement came as Gorsuch, who is also from Colorado, was facing U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.
A letter Elway wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee was first reported by Colorado Politics.
“A native of Colorado, Neil has demonstrated tremendous intelligence, character and fairness while serving more than a decade on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit,” wrote the former quarterback turned Broncos general manager and executive vice president for football.
“His credentials, integrity and sound moral compass are major reasons why he has already received so much bipartisan support for the nomination.”
The letter was written on Denver Broncos letterhead. But Patrick Smyth, the Broncos’ vice president of public relations, said in a Tuesday afternoon tweet that the letter was a personal statement from Elway, and that “his endorsement is independent of the Denver Broncos.”
Not Broncos letterhead. Was written on John’s personal letterhead (see left margin) & his endorsement is independent of the Denver Broncos. https://t.co/9DYZS0Aarq
— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) March 20, 2017
The messaging from Elway comes at a time when the NFL has become increasingly politicized, a sign of the divisive climate in America.
Teams have grappled with messaging as players, including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, used the NFL spotlight during the past season to protest wrongdoings against African Americans. Players refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem at games.
Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall took a knee during the national anthem last season, a move that the team framed as a “personal decision.” Similarly, the team is calling Elway’s decision to write a letter in support of Gorsuch “personal.”
Elway has dabbled in politics before, supporting conservative candidates. Last fall he weighed in on three Colorado ballot initiatives, participating in television ads. Elway supported an effort to make it more difficult to amend the state constitution, while opposing drives to create a universal health care system and raise the minimum wage.
The Colorado celebrity, however, has been coy about his interest in future public office.
Elway’s Gorsuch letter got a shout-out during Monday’s confirmation hearings, when Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner noted that Gorsuch could be the second Coloradan to serve on the high court, joining Byron White, who was an All-American at the University of Colorado before playing in the NFL.
Gorsuch would be “the only Coloradan serving on the Supreme Court who did not break the NFL rushing record,” Gardner said. “But the good news is that he does have the endorsement of No. 7, John Elway, of the great Denver Broncos.”