The former receiver gave a speech in which he urged men to stand up for women, but some in the audience disagreed with his remarks.
Intending to be motivational, former Seahawk Ricardo Lockette angered a group of Garfield High School students at an assembly Tuesday with remarks urging men to stand up for women.
The speech, part of the school’s push to promote leadership among student athletes, caused a group to stand up and attempt a walkout after what some called sexist remarks by the former professional athlete.
“He was pretty much saying that women need men in their lives to be successful,” said Julia Olson, a junior volleyball player in the audience who protested his remarks.
That response followed the former receiver’s asking the students how they expect their dads to respond to someone harassing their mothers, emphasizing that the male figures should speak up. Olson then challenged Lockette, saying, “Why can’t women stand up for themselves?”
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Some in the crowd cheered her rebuttal. Lockette said he respected her leadership, and then he responded with what he said he would tell relatives:
“Even though you can handle your own, but as men — men stand up; men take the challenge; men take the lead; men take the head,” Lockette told the crowd, according to audio obtained by KOMO News.
“Women can also do the same, but you would never respect any man if he never takes the lead; if he never shows you any authority; if he never shows you that he’s, he’s a king, that you would never respect him.”
Olson challenged Lockette again, to which Lockette said he liked her competitiveness and responded:
“It’s totally great to be confident, but you can’t do everything by yourself. If this room, if this school, was totally all women … what would you do? You can’t run, run your world with just women; it’s impossible — it’s impossible. Just like if it was all men,” he said, “we wouldn’t be able to do it. We need each other.”
The student and Lockette briefly went back and forth, and then he said, “If your daddy wasn’t there, then you wouldn’t be in that chair.”
After that, a group of about 20 student athletes — the majority of the volleyball team — tried to walk out of the assembly, Olson said in a phone interview Tuesday evening. Some administrators stopped some from leaving, but she and another person walked out, she said.
She added the comments contradicted what she was learning in classes. “I didn’t feel comfortable staying. I didn’t want to listen to really anything else that was going to be said.”
Lockette continued speaking after the walkout, saying the goal of the appearance was to instill confidence and motivation. Reached by phone Tuesday evening, he said overall the speech “went great,” and by the end, “we agreed at what we’re saying.”
“We all need each other,” said Lockette, who retired from the NFL in May after suffering a life-threatening neck injury during a game last November in Dallas. “At the end of the day, it was all about helping each other.”
Ed Haskins, the school’s athletic director, said he believes Lockette and the students weren’t understanding each other correctly, and some in the audience were expressing that women don’t need men’s help at all.
“We just need to do it together,” he said. “I think it was misinterpreted.”
Seattle Public Schools spokesman Luke Duecy said the district was shocked by what happened, while emphasizing the district’s support and care for all students.
After the protest, Olson said she received mostly positive feedback from students, praising her leadership. Some, though, questioned why she would stand up to the former professional athlete.
“Do you know who he is? You’re just a girl in high school,” she recalled of some peers’ reactions. “Personally, I’m sure he’s very intelligent … I’m not trying to offend anyone by speaking out.”
“Women should be empowered to be on your own.”