Anyone who follows the Seahawks knows the team’s players aren’t shy about speaking out on issues. But two weeks after Colin Kaepernick polarized a nation by sitting during the national anthem, some Seattle players began to wonder if speaking out was enough.
A question constantly asked in newsrooms has made its way to the football field: What’s the follow?
A series of national-anthem protests have gotten people talking, but the Seahawks want to know what people are doing.
That, players say, was the impetus behind the team’s decision to lock arms during “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Sunday’s game vs. Miami. They weren’t trying to spark a reaction. They were trying to spark action.
“The difference between a mob and a movement is the follow-through,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said after the game.
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Anyone who follows the Seahawks knows the team’s players aren’t shy about speaking out on issues. Michael Bennett wore a “Black Lives Matter” shirt on the first day of training camp, Richard Sherman delivers social soliloquies every other interview, and Cliff Avril noted the team-wide debates that frequently take place in the locker room.
But two weeks after Colin Kaepernick polarized a nation by sitting during the national anthem, some Seattle players began to wonder if speaking out was enough.
Kaepernick’s gesture has gained traction in a manner we haven’t seen in sports for a while. Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat during the anthem the next week, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall took a knee during the anthem Thursday, and Sunday several more players took knees — including four members of the Dolphins.
But during a team meeting a few days before the game, some of the Seahawks openly wondered if taking a knee would add much to the discussion at this point.
So on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, they did something different.
Billed as a “demonstration of unity,” players, coaches and other members of the Seahawks staff locked arms from “O say can you see” through “the home of the brave.” It wasn’t an over-the-top gesture, but it didn’t have to be.
But because of the buildup in the days before the game, players had to know that they were going to be asked about the display after the game. And that’s when they got the chance to make their real statement.
“Gestures mean nothing without follow-through,” Sherman said. “People get confused that you gotta go out there and make this gesture and then make people aware of it — but we’re more about action.”
Part of that action, as Baldwin revealed later, is setting up meetings with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and police departments throughout Washington. Racial oppression and police brutality are two of the major themes of this ongoing discussion, and the Seahawks are taking tangible steps to better understand why such injustices take place.
You could argue that they’re just football players, and that their collaboration with politicians and police officers won’t do much toward effecting change. But if athletes are to be seen as role models, isn’t it better that they go out of their way to walk the walk?
Kaepernick pledged to donate $1 million toward various charities to help improve the conditions he’s spoken so passionately about. Sherman mentioned how he and his teammates go out into the inner city with backpacks and school supplies for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have them.
The conversation about “bridging the gap” in American society seems to be as strong as ever. Just imagine if the action was, too.
No one is quite sure how this movement is going to look in a month from now. Will players keep kneeling? Will the Seahawks keep locking arms? Will we see other displays, such as Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters raising his fist during the anthem Sunday?
Hard to say. But the key to keeping this alive is the follow-through.
Some people say that the Seahawks risked nothing Sunday — that they went the PC route to avoid controversy on 9/11. And while there’s an argument for that, the personalities on this team have never been the type to back down for fear of blowback.
The more likely scenario is that they recognized where the conversation was and wanted to move it forward. They preached the importance of follow-through. It will be interesting to see if other teams follow suit.