A Seahawks rally in DuPont was canceled — but may be uncanceled — by the mayor, over a possible demonstration by Seahawks players on Sunday at the season opener.
On Friday morning the mayor of DuPont, a small town by Joint Base Lewis-McChord, announced he was canceling the third annual rally “of our beloved Seahawks.”
In a matter of hours, as the tweets, Facebook posts and trending stories went viral, Mayor Mike Courts’ city-sponsored Seahawks rally Saturday was maybe uncanceled, then canceled for sure, then the door left open for a future Hawks rally.
Courts, 57, is a retired Army colonel who served for 30 years, including two deployments each in Bosnia and Iraq. His official Facebook page features a giant U.S. flag.
He said that when he learned about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick not standing for the national anthem, “I was personally offended.”
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Then Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat during the anthem before last week’s final exhibition game at Oakland, saying he was showing solidarity with Kaepernick.
Lane said this week that he plans to continue to sit during the anthem this season.
After that, Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin tweeted Thursday, “To express a desire to bring people together, our team will honor the country and flag in a pregame demonstration of unity.”
By Friday afternoon, however, Baldwin said, “I don’t know who did (call it a protest), but we never said there was a protest. We never said we were kneeling, we never said we weren’t kneeling. We just said we were having a discussion. I want to be clear about that — we just said we were having a discussion.’’
Late Friday afternoon, as he was interviewed by phone, Courts was watching the NFL Network on the latest plans by Seahawks players and others around the league. But the Hawks players are keeping secret the specifics of what they’ll do Sunday.
Earlier on Friday, Courts said he was willing to uncancel the rally if the team made its plans known.
“They don’t have to tell me exactly what they will do, just an indication that they will show respect to the U.S. and the flag,” said Courts. “Then I can go back to the council and staff and say, ‘Let’s put this thing back on.’ ”
The latest bit of news from Baldwin was too late for Courts.
“At 5 in the afternoon, I’m not going to go jump through hoops,” he said.
If Courts feels the team hasn’t been “disrespectful,” then he’ll plan to reschedule the rally. Right now the city will go ahead with other events that had been scheduled, a barbecue and the opening of a dog park.
Courts expects a bigger crowd than if he hadn’t announced the cancellation.
He numbers the social-media responses “in the thousands.”
“Some people say I’m a bigoted racist, that I’m a fascist,” said Courts. “And I’ve had people hugging me.”
One Facebook commenter told Courts, “This makes me extremely proud to be part of this community. Thank you sir!”
Another posted, “This makes me embarrassed to say I live in DuPont.”
Courts said that earlier this week he had a city staff meeting and a “lengthy discussion of the pros and cons” of holding the Seahawks rally at the town’s PowderWorks Park.
“DuPont is 70 percent military: 30 percent active and 40 percent retired military,” Courts said about the town of 5,300.
The flag matters to them, he said.
Courts said he couldn’t commit public funds for a rally supporting “53 millionaires planning to publicly dishonor the American flag.”
On a Facebook posting, Courts wrote:
“Freedom of speech is a tenet of our community, and not honoring our flag is our right. But free speech is not without cost: words and actions mean things and are often times interpreted in a way not intended.
“While I respect the right of NFL players to express themselves, they must also respect the fact that their actions are hurtful to the community.”
Courts said he’s planning to watch the game on TV Sunday afternoon: “I’m a die-hard fan.”
And if he feels that whatever the players do on Sunday doesn’t honor the flag?
“I’ll turn the game off.”