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No one sat on the bench. No one knelt — at least no one on the Seattle Seahawks sideline.
All 53 Seahawks on the active roster and many other coaches and staff members locked arms during the national anthem — including cornerback Jeremy Lane — before their season-opening game against the Miami Dolphins.
It was meant to raise awareness, to show unity. That if a football team comprised of varying backgrounds and upbringings can come together, so can a nation. The Seahawks’ gesture was one of many from teams across the NFL on Sunday, coming on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
“In this country we’ve gone through so much. The African American community, we’ve gone through a lot,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “Not every police officer is a bad police officer. Not every African American is a bad person.
“When I look at our football team and the people we have in the locker room, we have so many guys who come from different socioeconomic statuses, different races, different relationship situations and all that, and mixed kids. Just a lot of different situations. When we look across the board at our team, we really know how to love one another, we really know how to respect one another. It comes down to appreciating one another, understanding that God made everybody different, made everybody unique in his own image and ultimately being able to go to the idea of love.”
Lane had one of his arms locked with Richard Sherman’s near coach Pete Carroll. He had said earlier this week that he planned to sit on the bench again like he did last week in the Seahawks’ final preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.
NFL-wide gestures, continuing Sunday, have appeared to inspire, offend or at least raise discussion about issues beyond the football fields on which these protests have taken place.
Baldwin said he didn’t want the Seahawks’ protest to be misconstrued as a lack of respect for the military and law enforcement, especially on the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, when so many of the first responders and others died in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and at Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
“We wanted to do something together, as a team,” Baldwin said. “We wanted to honor the lives that were lost 15 years ago.
“The message we’re sending is that, yes, there are things in our country that need to be changed. But that’s why this country is so great, because we’re never afraid of facing those challenges head on. In this locker room of 53 guys, we believe that as a team, the only way we’re going to win the Super Bowl is if we do it together. That’s where we arrived that, if we’re going to do this, we have to do it together.
“We’ve come so far — you can’t take that for granted. We’ve come so far. But that doesn’t mean we rest on our laurels when we have so far to go.”
Some Seahawks, including Baldwin and Wilson, posted tweets prior to their season-opening game Sunday remembering the attacks of 9/11.
Players indicated the Seahawks will continue to hold demonstrations throughout the season, though what they entail will likely vary.
Players and staff came up with the idea together Friday, a couple of weeks after listening to Harry Edwards, a sociologist and longtime advocate of human and civil rights. Baldwin said they plan to meet with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray as well as “police chiefs across the state” to continue the discussion.
“We’re trying to build a bridge,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We’re trying to bring people together. We’re trying to help people understand that it’s not just a black problem. It’s not just black people or a minority problem. It’s everyone’s problem. Everyone lives in this country and we want to see it as great of a country as it can be.
“Obviously there is some … there is some backlash with police in the community and there is some distrust. But I think we’re going to do our best in the community of Seattle to improve that relationship.”
On the Dolphins sideline, running back Arian Foster and three of his teammates knelt during the anthem — the same action San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took during the anthem last week. Receiver Kenny Stills and safety Michael Thomas held their hands over their hearts while kneeling. Foster and linebacker Jelani Jenkins didn’t.
Baldwin had said the Seahawks were in a conversation thread about the demonstrations with 26 other teams.
The Kansas City Chiefs also locked arms ahead of their Sunday game against the San Diego Chargers, with cornerback Marcus Peters, a former University of Washington defensive back, raising his fist throughout the anthem.
Several players from others teams across the NFL helped hold the edges of giant flags at their games. Police, firefighters, EMTs and members of all branches of the U.S. military received a standing ovation at CenturyLink Field in Seattle as they carried a giant U.S. flag that spanned the entire length and width of the football field.
The protests followed what Kaepernick first demonstrated, choosing to sit on the bench away from the rest of his teammates during the national anthem during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, protesting what he deemed are wrongdoings against African Americans and other minorities in the U.S.
The next game, Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid kneeled during the anthem, while Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat on the bench before the Seahawks hosted the Oakland Raiders for their final preseason game.
Baldwin posted a video to social media Saturday telling of the Seahawks’ plan to lock arms as an expression of team and racial unity.
“We are a team comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds,” Baldwin said in the video. “And as a team we have chosen to stand and interlock arms in unity. We honor those who have fought for the freedoms we cherish and we stand to ensure the riches of freedom and the security of justice for all people.
“Progress can and will be made if we stand together.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677