Marcus Peters, an all-pro cornerback who just turned 25 years old and has 19 career interceptions, will be traded to the Los Angeles Rams at the start of the league year, according to multiple reports.
That trade comes at the end of a volatile season for Marcus Peters in Kansas City. He was in the center of a melee at Oakland (his hometown) where he hit Derek Carr, and several players rushed in, and it appeared his friend Marshawn Lynch came off the bench to protect him and got ejected and suspended. He threw a penalty flag in the stands and walked off the field in a game against the Jets. That resulted in the team issuing a one-game suspension to Peters.
Oh, and he was the most vocal and prominent Chiefs player when it came to kneeling for the national anthem. Back in November, Clark Hunt revealed he had spoken with Peters about kneeling during the national anthem.
“When it rolled around last year, it really wasn’t a big deal for us, and we’ve tried to stay with that this year,” Hunt said. “Obviously we’ve had some guys who have sat or knelt during some of the games this year, but we’ve continued to work with them and communicate with them that we prefer for them to stand.
From what I am hearing from other NFL teams, the Chiefs haven’t made an overture toward trading Marcus Peters to this point, but other clubs anticipate his name coming up next week at the combine. Owner Clark Hunt has some concerns with Peters’ actions last season, as I hear it, and some of his unusual behavior during games, and he might not be long for Kansas City.
Now, you are not going to get anyone to put a specific percentage on how much the anthem kneeling had to do with this trade and the urgency to get him out of town, relative to other incidents, but I’ll note that Travis Kelce has a lengthy history of impulsive, taunting behavior in games that have at times cost the team. Before the first game, he talked about being more professional and then took all of three quarters before he got a taunting flag. No one is talking about trading him away as a top contributor at tight end.
Right after that December suspension, Sam Mellinger wrote an excellent article on Marcus Peters and his tricky relationship with Kansas City. Here’s what Kansas City mayor Sly James said in the piece:
“Look, Marcus is from Oakland. That’s a totally different cultural environment than Kansas City, especially for black folks. Kansas City is much more laid back. Been described as ‘Kansas City Nice.’ He’s not ‘Kansas City Nice.’ “I don’t mean that as he’s not nice. He simply has a different approach. I don’t have a problem with that approach. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for his approach. A lot of people wouldn’t be having this conversation without him, and it makes them uncomfortable, but that’s OK.”
Mellinger also quoted one team source as saying “it’s trickier here” in regard to Marcus Peters and kneeling during the national anthem because of the number of military installations that are within the team fanbase geographical footprint.
But even if the controversy is not directly impacting the Chiefs’ business, the club still considers it a problem and remains mostly vexed about what to do with it. Kansas City is a conservative market, with a strong military presence, and a general expectation that athletes stay in line. Peters might be the most expressive and unapologetic athlete in Kansas City history. He has expressed support of the military and belief in America’s future but is not interested in repeating the point or following any cultural norms. One team source described the situation as “complicated,” and noted that Peters is a leader in the locker room. No easy answers exist with a player unmoved to make his case publicly and a fan base that is at least largely unmoved to listen anyway.
So how much was the national anthem protest, and the response of a segment of the Kansas City fanbase, a factor? You don’t just trade away a cost-controlled star cornerback like this. Peters is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, and then the team could exercise his fifth-year option (and since he was drafted outside the top ten it would be very reasonable) and then you could franchise him for a year even if you did not want to get into a long-term deal.
It had become a case in Kansas City where views of Peters and his social activism bled over into criticism of him as a player. It was impossible not to view vocal complaints about his tackling or attitude during games without catching things through a political lens. The protests were very much a factor. That doesn’t mean necessarily that Clark Hunt insisted on trading him because of a personal viewpoint. It does at least mean that a vocal segment of the fanbase, and Peters’ view of that reaction, were issues that made a longterm relationship unlikely.
I’ll share a personal story that demonstrates some of that. I was at the playoff game at Arrowhead as a fan. After that gut-punch loss we proceeded back to the parking lot where a group of our tailgaters included one who was vocally ripping on Peters. Now, if you watched that game–where Peters had an interception, came up to make lots of plays, and nearly forced a decisive fumble late–and came away thinking he was the problem in that loss, I’m going to believe that you have a bias that goes beyond football. The rest of us were mocking and disagreeing with that viewpoint.
And that’s when Marcus Peters himself pulled up. He had apparently bolted from the stadium in a hurry right after the game (this had to be less than 10 minutes after its conclusion). Traffic was heavy to get out of the stadium, and the road passed right by where we were standing. Peters, with his window rolled down, yelled at the guy criticizing him, calling him “hella weak.” Here is a tweet commemorating that incident.
Now, most of us laughed at the guy who just got called out by Peters in the parking lot (trust me, there were lots of jokes made at his expense). But Peters, with his window down, being on edge and listening and hearing the criticism of one fan on the way out of the stadium? I think that shows where he was in his frustration.
We all know that online, you might hear from the vocal 5%–who do not represent the majority–and it can seem like there is a lot of criticism out there. Imagine what it would sound like if you are Peters in a market where closer to 50% may criticize your tackling but you know what is really driving it. It must sound like the whole city, even if that’s not true.
One of the writers at Arrowhead Pride says that he has heard now that Peters demanded a trade right after what I observed following that playoff loss.
Did the kneeling impact this trade? You bet it did. Whether it was the Chiefs realizing that the fanbase had issues with Peters where no one would listen, or he had issues with the fanbase, it seemed things were at a tipping point as he took off from the stadium after that last loss. Now, you might think a franchise would consider that, but think he was too good to give up on, but they might have worried about his attitude if things continued to precipitate, and if he had already checked out on staying in the city.
I think this trade to Los Angeles will be a great move for Peters. He won’t hear as much criticism when he speaks out in L.A., and it won’t be ignored when he helps underprivileged children. He’ll be a ballhawk on a team that has Aaron Donald breathing on the QB every play. I’m not sure how it will work out for Kansas City, but for now, a sizeable minority fans got what they wanted, getting rid of guy that they think won’t tackle.