Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks players consider potential protest on racial equality

Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin signs autographs for fans before Sunday's NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Dec. 27, 2015.
Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin signs autographs for fans before Sunday's NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Dec. 27, 2015. toverman@theolympian.com

The Seahawks are doing far more inside their locker room than just readying for Sunday’s season opener.

They are discussing something way more impacting, pressing and, ultimately, important in our society.

Seattle’s players, and specifically its vocal, opinionated, veteran core, are discussing whether to join protests by NFL players against racial inequality.

Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers started the protests last month by sitting during the national anthem. Seattle defensive back Jeremy Lane joined in before a preseason game last week.

The Seahawks are considering that if they do join in the protests, how to do it.

Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner says the Seahawks might make some kind of statement en masse.

“Anything that we are going to do is not going to be individually. It’s going to be as a team,” Wagner said.

“Honestly, as far as sitting for that, I don’t know what that really does. I think if we are going to do something, it has to be more, because that’s not going to change people that are doing the wrongs, that are doing the killings.

“I do appreciate it, because it has definitely opened up the conversations. But there is just so much more to be done.”

Lane said this week that he will sit again during the anthem when it’s sung on Sunday at CenturyLink Field before the Seahawks host Miami.

Asked if he’s considered joining Lane in his protest, Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said: “I have.

“I want to make sure I get all of my ducks in a row before I do something.”

Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that used hijacked airliners as bombs against New York and Washington, D.C. The attacks killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 others.

Baldwin was asked if 9/11’s anniversary should be a consideration for any NFL player considering a protest that day.

“Absolutely,” he said.

“I think that anybody should be thinking about that — even if it wasn’t September 11th. The point of the protest is to get people to think. And I think it’s very ironic to me that 15 years ago, September 11th, 2001, one of the most devastating times in U.S. history, after that day we were probably the most unified that we’ve ever been. And today, we struggle to see the unity.

“It’s very ironic to me that this date is coming up. It’s going to be a special day, a very significant day. But at the same time, I think I’m looking forward to the many changes that we can make in this country to make better changes in our country.”

Baldwin has been active on social media in recent weeks, commenting on the need for social change.

“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “Obviously, there is some negative pushback, as well. But, you know, a lot of positive feedback from everybody that I’ve been speaking to.”

That includes Kaepernick.

Baldwin said he’s talked “extensively” in the last couple weeks to the 49ers quarterback. Baldwin said he reached out to Kaepernick for those “very good” conversations.

Kaepernick is close to former Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, a friend of Baldwin’s. Lockette was on San Francisco’s practice squad in 2012.

On Monday, Baldwin posted on his Facebook account a response from a friend to Baldwin’s comments on social change and the protests during national anthems. The friend served in an elite Army combat unit.

“I have the honor of knowing some amazing people that serve and have served our country in the military,” Baldwin wrote. “One of them, a friend that served in the Special Forces, responded to my text asking him what he thought about me kneeling during the national anthem. I thought it was appropriate to share what he had to say:

‘I’d respect your passion and desire to make a statement about an incredibly important issue that we have to talk about as a nation.

‘I also feel like, as a white man, it’s impossible for me to say I understand what it is to experience real and widespread racism. I can’t relate to the depth and significance of those wounds. It’s not a story I’ve lived, and I’m not going to pretend I have any personal authority on the issue.

‘What I will say is I know racism is real. And I know it shouldn’t be. And I know that the only way I can help us get to where racism loses its power in our nation is for me to listen, respect, and love my friends who have experienced it in their lives.

‘And if taking a knee during our anthem is how you share your pain with me … then I will stand behind you while you do and lay any man down who tries to stop you.

‘I saw a kid take a knee during the anthem, and he put his hand on his heart, too. It was powerful for me to see him do that.

‘Our nation has to take this issue on. It stands between us and our becoming the tribe we need to be, and the world needs us to be. — CB’ 

Baldwin’s father, Doug Sr., has been a police officer in Pensacola, Florida, and a homeland security official.

Baldwin became a National Honor Society member, and graduated from Stanford before joining the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2011.

Now Baldwin is perhaps the most respected leader in the Seahawks’ locker room — and on the field. The $46 million wide receiver co-led the NFL with a Seattle-record 14 touchdown catches last season.

“My grandfather, being in the military, it hit home for me, as well,” Baldwin said of Kaepernick’s and Lane’s protests during anthems. “You know, specifically, it’s the veterans. That’s more heartening to me than anything. It is the veterans that have reached out and said, you know, that’s what they fought for. That’s what they sacrificed their lives for, was to give people back home — under the flag, under this country — the opportunity to stand up or say what they believe in. It was very heartening to hear that and that response from veterans.

“The majority of the people that contacted me were veterans.”

Asked if he had any opinion on making any kind of statement similar to Kaepernick or Lane this Sunday, Baldwin shook his head.

“Not yet,” he said. “I’m still thinking it through.”

Another issue iswhether professional athletes can bring social change through what they do on the field before, during or after sporting events.

“I don’t know how realistic it is,” Baldwin said.

“The point is to bring attention and awareness to your protest. To bring attention to what’s going on. And that’s what I think the issue is here. We are missing the message, in terms of, it’s not necessarily about the messenger. It’s not about the protest itself.”

“It’s different in our locker room. We kind of give each other a lot of slack. Whatever decisions you make, we understand that you are all human beings. Some of us might not agree. Some of us will agree. But at the same time, we give each other a lot of slack in our locker room.

“Honestly, I’ve prayed a lot about it ... to try to get the right direction on this.”

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

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