Seahawks players explain decision to not participate in national anthem

Sep 24, 2017, 6:56 PM | Updated: 6:56 pm
Neither team was on the field for the national anthem before the Seahawks-Titans game. (AP)...
Neither team was on the field for the national anthem before the Seahawks-Titans game. (AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Seahawks players were in the air when President Donald Trump gave the speech in which he seemingly urged NFL owners to punish players who refused to stand for the national anthem.

There were hours of discussion on Saturday about what to do along with communication with the Tennessee Titans culminating in a decision on Sunday morning that the Seahawks players would not be on the field when the national anthem was performed.

“That was a decision that the players were really hoping we could do,” coach Pete Carroll said, “and based on all of the concerns and the Titans wanted to do the same thing. That’s just a statement they felt they needed to make, and I thought it was in the way it wasn’t a demonstrative thing on the field, I think it was a classy way to demonstrate your dissent for what had happened and all that.”

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Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Russell Wilson all talked about the decision after the game, each emphasizing the desire to come together as a group while respecting the different opinions and beliefs of all members of the locker room.

“There was a lot of discussion,” Bennett said. “We discussed it and everyone has a lot of compassion for each other and have compassion and conviction for what other people are going through and I think for us, it was just finding a way to make everybody feel included.

“In this generation, you don’t see a lot of sports and people spending time to even talk about the issues. It’s beyond politics. It’s about being a human being and having dignity and compassion for other human beings regardless of their race and gender.”

Russell Wilson: “There were a lot of guys that really, really wanted to do something and try to make a difference. I definitely was one of them, too. I wanted to do something where we could do something unified. We believe in love. We believe in helping and trying to and the only way we can defeat the hate is by loving people and so that’s what we believe in.”

Receiver Doug Baldwin, who shared a statement of his own Saturday, was asked what he hoped the message people would take away from the team’s decision.

“I’m not speaking for everybody in our locker room,” he said. “I’m speaking from my heart, personally, and what my thoughts are. These are my thoughts: I think it’s scary that we have a man in office who was elected to protect our basic rights and yet he has shown recently the opposite … for us as players – directly being called out – about not being able to express ourselves which this great country has and many men and women who have sacrificed their lives for us to be able to express ourselves in that way.

“That’s the foundational core of who we are as a country, and for that to be threatened by the man who is at the head of the table for our country, it’s a very serious thing. So I hope that that message is loud and clear for anybody who’s listening, anybody who’s watching that they recognize that this is a dangerous time and we recognize that.”

The challenge for an NFL locker room is finding any sort of consensus about a topic like racial inequality with a symbol as potent as the flag and the national anthem mixed into the discussion.

“There is inequality out there,” Sherman said. “There isn’t liberty and justice for all, and I think guys for a while – at least a year now – have been protesting that by taking a knee, sitting down, putting up the fist, but their voices were watered down.

“They were drowned out. They were drowned out by the noise because people were saying, ‘Oh, you’re kneeling during the national anthem.’ But these are the same people that today – during the Patriots game – were booing guys during the national anthem, but they don’t see that as disrespect. It’s really a strange hypocrisy that we see, but people don’t seem to see it when they’re doing it.

“As a team, we wanted to do our best to not ostracize our guys, any of our individuals. Allow them to feel welcomed and not really make them uncomfortable. That’s the worst thing you can do as a teammate is put your teammate in an uncomfortable position.

“If the whole team doesn’t come, then it’s easier for them to defend themselves. ‘Hey, it’s a team decision.’ I just did what the team did. You’re a good teammate. Perfect. Fine. But if you get out there and ask a guy to kneel or sit – going against his values, going against his family – you put him in weird spots. So we never wanted to do that. We think that we did a good job of getting our message out and trying not to distract.”

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