RENTON Seahawks players are taking their protests and social-equality statements to the phase they hope will the best one, for all.
Five days after they all stayed inside their locker room in Tennessee during the national anthem to protest the mistreatment of minorities and the need for police reform in this country, Seahawks players announced the start of the Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund. The goal of the fund is “to support education and leadership programs addressing equality and justice” in the United States.
The fund is believed to be the first of its kind in the NFL. The Seahawks want to possibly expand it to other pro leagues in America.
The Seahawks franchise is backing the fund with money of its own. Team officials were not immediately able to detail how much the organization has donated, but Doug Baldwin indicated the amount is substantial.
Baldwin, the Seahawks’ top wide receiver, is a Stanford graduate and son of a law-enforcement and Homeland Security officer. He has been a face and voice of the Seahawks’ protest movement this week nationally--and since last year. That’s when he met and talked with police organizations from across the state and with Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Baldwin has been advocating the need for new training and policies for police in their use of deadly force.
Baldwin said following Friday’s practice for Sunday night’s game against Indianapolis some of the money raised through this new fund will pay for police training; he’s found in meeting with officers that’s what they need most to improve relations with citizens. Baldwin said the money will also go to create more and better educational opportunities, including for minority populations.
Seahawks players are aware of those who oppose their protests during the national anthem, and Baldwin said the players “appreciate” and “understand” those who say sitting or skipping the anthem means nothing without action to help the causes for which they are protesting.
“I think that if you ask anybody who is trying to do something, trying to make change, you always going to have that push back, that negativity,” Baldwin said. “And you credit the guys in this locker room and the organization. We’ve been able to kind of cipher through that and find our way through that and continue to focus on our goal and on our purpose.
“And this is another item that shows that we’ve been able to do that. So I wouldn’t say that we’re sensitive to it. I would say that we’ve heard it, and we understand it. We appreciate it. However, it had no bearing on what we’ve been trying to work on for the past year and a half.”
That’s how long Baldwin said he and his teammates have been working to establish “actionable items where we could actually take a direct approach to things.”
“This,” he said of the fund, “is a product of all that work.
“We always knew that we needed to generate money, but we just didn’t know how to do it or what it would look like and if we would have complete buy-in from not only the players but also the organization--which we have now. I think it wasn’t necessarily having too many ideas. It was basically this was the idea, but we had to button it down to where we knew exactly what we were doing. And why.”
The players announcing they are taking their talk and protests to action fit coach Pete Carroll’s message Wednesday: “I think that last week was about making a statement. And I think moving forward, it’s about making a difference.”
The difference-making phase has now officially begun.
“We thought that this was a unique and beautiful time to do it, to release it,” Baldwin said.
“Our players have put together an action fund aimed at (an) educational-leadership approach, with the thought of aiming all of the funding towards equality and justice,” Carroll said. “And our guys are really excited about that and we jumped to support it and helped them get started. Hopefully we’ll take this opportunity to really do the work to make a difference...
“I’m most proud of these guys. Also, because a lot of these guys have kind of grown up with us you know we’ve been in a long time together and those that are in the leadership position, you know, I’ve seen them come to a lot of stages of their young football life really. And so it is very rewarding.
“But most of all I’m excited because they’re going to get stuff done. They really are ready to do the good work.”
Baldwin is coming off a career-high 10 catches on 15 targets in last weekend’s loss at Tennessee. He is questionable to play against the Colts Sunday because of a strained groin. But he practiced for the first time this week on Friday. He said when asked if he’ll play: “That’s the plan.”
Baldwin said the announcement of the fund does not substitute for or replace any demonstration or protest the Seahawks may do before the national-showcase game in prime time on Sunday night, or before future games. The players or coaches aren’t saying what they will do before the Colts game. But, yes, the players are discussing what to do.
“This is, again, just another action item for us,” Baldwin said. “This gives us an opportunity to move the conversation off the field and actually into our communities and around fans outside this building to actually know what we are doing and what we have been trying to accomplish and actually take part in doing it with us.”
Baldwin outlined a few specifics on what the players hope to pay for with the fund.
“A couple of them specifically pertain to education in schools, in public-school systems,” he said. “And...particularly in the state of Washington...law enforcement needs more money for the training change that is taking place (on deescalation of incidents and use of force).”
Baldwin said Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett has mentioned “several” causes for minorities as possible benefactors for the fund. Bennett has spoken over the last month and a half, since he started sitting during anthems before games, on the need to improve relations for blacks, Latinos, women, religious minorities, Native Americans and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“So there’s a there’s a lot of organizations and causes that we want to help and support in any way that we can,” Baldwin said.
“We’ve talked to everybody you can think of, we’ve talked to. One of the things that we wanted to do is make sure that it was clearly understood what this fund was for, and then once it expands then be able to branch out to other organizations, to other teams, to other leagues and allow complete buy-in.
“Not just from the Seahawks of the NFL, but also from a country’s perspective.”