Two weeks after his 18th birthday, DeeJay Dallas registered to vote in Georgia on Sept. 29, 2016. The Seahawks’ rookie running back was eager to participate in the electoral process again this year, and Georgia state records show his absentee ballot was accepted there Oct. 27.
“Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, it’s your God-given birthright to get out and vote,” said Dallas, a native of Brunswick, Georgia. “My ancestors fought too hard for me not to vote.”
Political activism has never been more prevalent in professional sports than it has in 2020, and few teams have been as engaged publicly as the Seahawks. Pete Carroll said he has continued to initiate conversations with players around civic activism in the buildup to Tuesday’s general election. He has been wearing a “Coach the Vote” shirt around the Seahawks’ Renton headquarters, and he says he shared national polling numbers in a recent team meeting.
Carroll, Russell Wilson and Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin have been featured prominently in the “NFL Vote” national campaign encouraging fans to vote. According to Washington state voting records, Carroll and Wilson returned their ballots Oct. 20 and Oct. 22, respectively, and Florida records show the Griffins’ ballots have been counted there.
“I think that I’m more socially aware than I’ve ever been,” Carroll said. “I’ve been more influenced, more clearly committed in really respecting the role that I have and the opportunity I have to help other guys and influence the people around to vote. We’re making commercials — we’re doing everything we can think of to help out. It’s just been an outpouring of awareness.”
All NFL facilities will be closed for players and staff on election day. Last week, the NFL and the NFL Players Association announced that 90% of all NFL players had registered to vote.
In late August, the Seahawks canceled a Saturday training-camp practice and had an impassioned team meeting to discuss social-justice and racial-equality issues. One goal from that meeting, Carroll said at the time, was to get every player on the team registered to vote.
And as of mid-October, the Seahawks reported that indeed 100% of their players had registered.
Carlos Dunlap looks like he’ll fit right in with the Seahawks. The team’s new defensive end — acquired in a trade with Cincinnati this week — posted a picture of himself on social media dropping his ballot in the mail Tuesday. “Use your voice. Speak Up! Show Up!” he wrote.
Quandre Diggs, the Seahawks’ 27-year-old safety from Angleton, Texas, did not vote in the 2016 election. He was, at the time, too consumed with football as a young NFL player. This year, though, he said he made voting a priority, and he registered in July in Travis County, Texas, according to county records there. Diggs said he helped younger teammates register and request their out-of-state absentee ballots.
“As I got older, I realized people before fought for those rights,” Diggs said. “It’s important for us to make our voices heard. To be an athlete at this level, to have the notoriety we have, you can go out there and tell other people to vote (and) it can help get the job done.”
To promote the “Coach the Vote” campaign, Carroll has collaborated with five Seattle-based Black artists who designed the coach’s customized Nike Air Monarchs shoes with a different look for each Seahawks game. Artists Aramis O. Hamer and Takiyah Ward designed the shoes Carroll is planning to wear for Sundays’ game against San Francisco. The shoes will then be auctioned off as a fundraiser for Seattle’s Urban Artworks.
The voting campaign has become a focal point throughout the Seahawks organization. The main page of the Seahawks’ website, Seahawks.com, is almost entirely devoted to “Vote 2020,” with information on how to vote in the King County Voting Center at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday (the center closes at 8 p.m. on election day).
Carroll’s only regret in promoting social awareness is that he didn’t do it sooner.
“I think our country has taken a whole new step in this regard and awareness and all that, which is a really positive move for all of us,” Carroll said. “And people allowing themselves the power of taking and making their vote (count) is really a wonderful aspect of what our country and democracy is all about. So I’m thrilled that we’re involved with it.
“I regret the fact that we weren’t better talking about it before. Why didn’t I know then? And hopefully all of the young kids, the ones that are turning voting age and those that are approaching it will be a part of this wave of focus and interest in what’s so important in our country.”