Is it possible that the Seahawks have figured out a way to advance Colin Kaepernick’s message without the attendant divisiveness? We’ll have to see how this plays out Sunday, when the Seahawks open the season at CenturyLink Field against the Miami Dolphins — on 9/11, no less.
The Seahawks are a team that likes to turn normal football conventions on their ear, starting at the top with Pete Carroll who, in Richard Sherman’s words, “coaches optimistically rather than pessimistically.”
So leave it to the Seahawks to turn their en masse entrance into the Colin Kaepernick world of social commentary into an ode of positivity.
At least, that was the indication from wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who tweeted this Thursday and then clammed up: “To express a desire to bring people together, our team will honor the country and flag in a pregame demonstration of unity.”
Who can argue with unity? Who has a beef with bringing people together, or honoring country and flag? Is it possible that the Seahawks have figured out a way to advance Kaepernick’s message without the attendant divisiveness?
Probably not possible, given the current epidemic of people taking offense at just about everything, with great zeal and minimal provocation, particularly on matters that border on the political. We’ll have to see how this plays out Sunday, when the Seahawks open the season at CenturyLink Field against the Miami Dolphins — on 9/11, no less, a day fraught with significance.
On Wednesday, there were hints of a brewing teamwide protest by the Seahawks, a notion that unquestionably titillated the masses. By Thursday, as most players were avoiding the topic with the skill and grace of Russell Wilson eluding a pass rush, the tone had changed dramatically.
The new, strong indication is that the protest will not involve sitting or kneeling during the anthem, though it’s not known if Jeremy Lane will continue to do so, as he indicated earlier in the week.
Nate Boyer, the former green beret and brief Seahawks long snapper, tweeted Thursday that he had talked to several Seattle players and, “What the team will do is a powerful sign of unification + respect for the Anthem + those that fight for our Freedom!”
This is an extremely delicate balance that the Seahawks are trying to achieve. Many have indicated that they support the general message of Kaepernick’s fight against racial injustice but not necessarily his means of expressing it, which has caused considerable animosity along with pockets of support.
“I think the point is to bring attention and awareness to your protest, to bring attention to what’s going on,’’ Baldwin said Wednesday when he first broached the issue of making a statement. “I think that is what the issue is here. We’re missing the message, in terms of what we’re talking about. It’s not necessarily about the messenger or the protest itself, it’s about what we’re pointing to. I’ll just leave it at that.”
This is the same Baldwin, mind you, who tweeted last week that “to change the status quo, you have to upset the status quo. Not by going with the flow.”
And rest assured, there’s a portion of the status quo that would have been upset if the Seahawks had waged a team-wide protest that revolved around the anthem. Just read the online comments section of Bob Condotta’s article Wednesday raising the possibility of a larger protest.
• “I’m a 44 year old, lifelong Hawk fan and I can assure you that I will find other things to do on Sundays instead of watching these disrespectful dumbasses.”
• “On 9/11? Well I guess we are done with the Seahawks.”
• “Thanks for giving me my Sundays back. As long as ANY player from this team disrespects our country or flag, I will not watch or support them.”
Or read the irate e-mail I received Thursday from a man who said a group of Seahawks fans in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla, all veterans, were prepared to boycott the Seahawks (“and more if necessary”) if they joined Kaepernick’s protest:
“WE TAKE THIS PERSONAL!!! We will stand our GROUND and we will start with FACEBOOK, TWITTER and others to BOYCOTT the TEAM if they go through with this SCUMBAG attack against the 12. At present count, we’ve got nearly 200 to either watch the game and support our TEAM……OR BOYCOTT! SEAHAWKS can CHOOSE !!!”
We might not know until Sunday exactly what the Seahawks have in store, but they seem to recognize that any message they might put forward would get lost in the noise if presented in a divisive fashion. That happened to an extent in St. Louis in 2014 when five Rams wide receivers came out before a game in the “hands up, don’t shoot” pose that marked protests of the police shooting in Ferguson, Mo. Police groups were outraged, and some fans burned team gear.
Kaepernick has inspired similar ire. But regardless of what you think of Kaepernick’s methods or message, there’s no question that his initial stance has advanced the conversation about the issues he is protesting. And both Kaepernick and the 49ers organization have pledged $1 million in donations to groups that address social inequity.
Maybe now the Seahawks can continue to help steer the debate in a positive direction by removing the symbolism of the flag and the anthem. I’ve rarely been in a locker room in any sport populated with as many articulate, thoughtful and socially conscious athletes expressing diverse points of view without rancor or judgment — and with little filter from above.
As Baldwin said Wednesday, “It’s different in our locker room. We kind of give each other a lot of slack, so whatever decisions you make, we understand that we’re all human beings.”
On Sunday, will see if they have figured a way to bring some much-needed unity into the debate that Kaepernick kick-started.