Chain Reactions: Why This Time, The Joke Is On Marquette King

Jan 1, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King (7) kicks the ball away in the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King (7) kicks the ball away in the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Marquette King is known for his sense of humor, both on the field and on social media. But this time, the joke is on him.

Approximately a little over a month or so ago, some guy wrote a profile of sorts about Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King for this very website, detailing his rise from a bottom-of-the-depth-chart wide receiver at Fort Valley State University to his current role as heir-apparent of the Raiders’ rich tradition of top-notch special teamers. He crystallized his thoughts with this:

"In the most important way, however, Marquette King falls squarely in line. With a franchise that boasts the two greatest punters of all-time in Ray Guy and Shane Lechler, King is right on path in etching his name next to theirs in the pantheon of great players. It’s why I’m so okay with all of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties he has earned and will potentially earn in the future. I’m okay with the dancing and choreographed celebrations after he pins a team inside their own five-yard line."

Marquette obviously reads JBB religiously (in fairness, who doesn’t), and took that writer’s words as permission to turn up. Because just in the short time since that piece ran, the punter has upped the ante with his antics and jesterism both on and off-the-field, culminating in this photo taken at the Pro Bowl with current Raider Nation Public Enemy Number One, Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib:

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past month, you have the necessary context to understand what this photo references and why it’s a problem — so much of a problem, that King has since deleted his caption of the photo from his timeline.

If you have been in a coma, welcome back, I guess! Here’s a brief rundown of what you’ve missed:

  • Derek Carr broke his fibula in a blowout against the hapless Colts, sending the Raiders’ resurgent season into a tailspin right before the postseason began.
  • Between two backup quarterbacks, the Raiders score 20 points in their eight quarters of the season and are promptly trounced from their first playoff appearance in a decade and a half by an incompetent ostrich.
  • Michael Crabtree’s trademark gold necklace was snatched from his neck by Aqib Talib in the regular-season finale against the Broncos.

The collective impact of these happenings has left an especially bitter taste in the mouth of Raider Nation heading into the offseason. And while the final note on that list may seem like the least significant of the bad things to have happened, I’d argue it to be most representative of the mindstate and attitude of the team in the final weeks of the season, after Carr was felled for good.

To many people, Talib snatching Crabtree’s chain was nothing more than a brief, mostly inconsequential exchange between two generally-mouthy players — the kind that routinely takes place on a football field, and that varies in levels of humor depending on how you happen to feel about the two players and teams involved. To a certain extent, that’s true, but I will take this opportunity to briefly explain why to many others, myself included, a chain-snatching is far more serious than that.

If you are the owner/wearer of a gold chain, like I am, most likely it holds at least some value to you, intrinsic or otherwise. You wear it out and about with a sense of pride. Be it a gift or self-made purchase, it is the ultimate representation of luxury and excess, and in the very least, you would be less-than-ok with losing or damaging it.

Likewise, the size and/or number of gold chains you wear at a given time is an implicit declaration of this luxury, what is colloquially called “stuntin’”. The bigger/greater number of chains you wear at any given time, the more it is assumed you are intending to stunt.

Believe it or not, your elected level of stuntin’ that day can have a direct impact on you and those around you. For example, on Saturday, my lady and I visited a Korean restaurant for lunch. I was casually dressed — a crewneck sweatshirt and jeans, nothing fancy. But I was also wearing a moderately-sized gold chain with a moderately-sized pendant. The host at the front door glanced up from his desk to greet us, and before he could ask how many for the table, he blurted out “Well damn, man! Are you sure you’re in the right place?? This is just a chicken joint!”

His acknowledgement of my neckwear, while humorous and friendly, was also a subtle sign of respect. Regardless to his true feelings of my appearance, the message was clear: I see you stuntin’ today, kind sir. Mission accomplished. I will also note that the service we received that day was exceptional. I can only speculate as to how much my chain had an impact on that.

Of course, the message won’t always be as friendly as that particular one was. Thus, when you make the decision to stunt with your chain or chains, you must be mindful of the occasion or your surroundings, and prepared to deal with the various outcomes and reactions to your stuntin’ accordingly. Not everyone can appreciate or accept being stunted on with good humor, and may look to embarrass and even harm you to put an end to your stuntin’,  while simultaneously holding on to your jewels either for themselves or turn for a profit. This is where chain-snatching comes into play.

Chain-snatching is the ultimate sign of disrespect. It is the physical removal of a symbol of your pride or wealth or accomplishment. It is not only the deliberate act of destruction of your property — it’s the implication that you are both unable to defend yourself from the attack, and incapable of adequately avenging the attack. In short, having a chain snatched is the direct challenge of your machismo.

Nine times out of ten, when a chain is snatched, the snatcher has made the decision to do so far in advance of the actual attempt. He has spotted you from afar, much as the lion stalks the zebra in the savannah, and has labeled you as a prime candidate for a chaindectomy — the surgical term for a chain removal. At this point, he is just waiting for the opportunity to present itself.

Sure enough, such was the fate of Michael Crabtree when it came to the case of Aqib Talib. When asked for an explanation of his actions after the incident, Talib admitted that the act was premeditated:

"“He has just been wearing that gold chain all year; it’s just been growing on me. I said if he wears that chain in front of me, I’m going to snatch it off. He wore it in front of me, so I had to snatch it off. He started crying to the ref. He didn’t say nothing to me though.”"

Crabtree’s insistence on wearing his chain on the field is indeed a form of stuntin’. He did not pioneer the act — players have been wearing different articles of jewelry on the field for years, and several other players currently wear chains underneath their pads — but it has become a notable part of his profile, especially as his notoriety has risen due to his success with the Raiders over the past few seasons. The fans have noticed, starting the #ChainsOutForCrabtree hashtag on Twitter, and adding their own gold chains to their game-day garb.

Thus, when Talib made the decision to snatch Crabtree’s chain, he wasn’t simply picking on a rival player; he was looking to trigger a reaction and take down the morale of a team already hanging on by a thread after the injury to Derek Carr. The Broncos had nothing but pride to play for at that point, so Talib was not worried about a flag or fine or suspension, had it escalated. In fact, he was probably hoping Crabtree would respond right there on the field, and take the receiver out of the game in one way or the other.

Crabtree, to his credit, kept his composure on the field and responded postgame, simply saying he’d buy and wear another chain the following week for the playoffs, and that Talib would be watching him wear it from the house. But we all know how that game went, and it’s safe to say that Talib has gotten the better of the exchange to this point.

I’m sure there are many who still don’t and perhaps never will understand the connection between a chain and a man’s respect. Maybe you don’t wear chains and aren’t particularly interested in doing so. But certainly you have or own something that is worth more than just a dollar amount to you — maybe it’s a watch or a car, or even something as simple as your favorite shirt. And you certainly understand the general agreed-upon rules concerning ownership and property destruction and personal space.

So think of it that way— if somebody walked up to you and ripped the shirt off of your back just for laughs, in the very least, there’d be some sort of confrontation, and you’d seek some sort of retribution or restitution. At least, for your sake, I’d hope.

All of that is what makes Marquette’s actions so disappointing. In fact, Sunday night is not the first time King has referenced Crabtree’s chain-snatching in a joking manner. In what now appears to be a setup to last night’s punchline, he tweeted this to Talib a few weeks ago:

Why or how Marquette could think to make light of this incident can’t simply be attributed to his general inclination to make everything into a joke; it’s clear that he understands what the act means outside of football.

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The photo itself, along with the decision to both take and post it publicly for the world’s viewing pleasure, tells us that King either doesn’t know when to turn the “class clown” act off, or doesn’t particularly care for or about Michael Crabtree and has no problem trying to getting off a few laughs and jokes at his expense.

I’m sure the author of the King profile stands behind what he originally wrote, and I support him. You should find ways to have fun in almost everything you do, and his embodiment of that idea is what has endeared many fans to King in the first place. I am largely in favor of professional athletes having fun and being human and displaying personality — especially in a league that does its damndest to try and prevent that from happening as much as possible.

And in the grand scheme of things, these guys aren’t hurting for income — a couple thousand dollars on some quality jewelry shouldn’t put Crabtree or anyone else in the poor house.

But, much like punting, there’s a bold line you should be wary of crossing. King’s ability to inch as close to that line as possible without breaching it, is the key to his on-field success, and is what has afforded him a stroke of notoriety to begin with. His ability to teeter other lines outside of the hashmarks is what will define him going forward as both a person and a teammate.

Next: A Year In Review: Bruce Irvin

Let’s hope he figures it out sooner rather than later.