When the Seahawks remained in their locker room during Sunday’s national anthem before their game against Tennessee, it wasn’t a protest against the American flag, head coach Pete Carroll said to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk on Monday.
“Some people clearly see this as a demonstration against the flag; there’s a lot of people that understand this a demonstration for the flag and for what we stand for, and it’s not in any way, shape or form meant to denigrate anything,” Carroll said. “It’s to stand up for our beliefs and what we feel is important and looking after people and taking care of one another.”
The Seahawks were just one of numerous NFL teams to use a demonstration on Sunday in response to a series of disparaging remarks by President Donald Trump about NFL players at a rally in Alabama on Friday, the most pointed of which was that team owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field” whenever a player decides to not stand during the national anthem.
Carroll said he wasn’t caught off guard by Trump’s words, but he understood why some Seahawks players took them personally.
“I’ve followed his program all along, and I’ve listened to what he says and his perspectives, so I was not surprised,” Carroll said of Trump. “It was another expression of his that demonstrates where he comes from. When you really listen to the words and you take the words literally – which I don’t know that he meant them literally, I don’t know that he thought that way – but literally, you’re talking about somebody’s mother. And our players understood it and took it very personally. It just felt like they just weren’t respected at all collectively and that’s why they demonstrated.”
Like he did after Sunday’s game against the Titans, Carroll expressed his support for his team’s decision to sit out the national anthem, and he further explained his stance.
“It’s a good statement because that’s what they felt and they did exactly what they felt they needed to do and I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “We all come back to, well, you get to say what you want to say because this is what America is about; it’s about expression and freedom and speech and all those wonderful aspects of our makeup, and then for somebody to say, ‘You don’t get to’ – they don’t get it. That’s a mistake, and so that battle should continue to be waged about freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
Carroll also responded to critics who say that NFL players shouldn’t take a stand because of the amount of money they make playing football.
“Those that take a shot at them because they’re making money – what does that mean? They’re representing where they come from. Because they’re in this position, they’re available to make a difference, and they care and they want to and their heart is in the right place and they want to reach out to young people and express what they need to understand. It’s not the other way around. It’s misunderstood totally when people take that perspective. These guys are champions for what’s good and they want to do the right thing.”