RENTON — First, Pete Carroll listened to his players during an emotional meeting on the grass berm overlooking the team’s practice fields Saturday, which was followed by a decision to cancel practice.
Then Carroll spoke, stepping before a Zoom camera to deliver a roughly 15-minute impassioned statement to media in which he implored white Americans to learn more of the reality facing Black Americans and the country’s history. He said all of his players would be registered to vote by the end of the day and called on his fellow coaches to use their platforms to help fight social injustice and improve the state of race relations.
“I’m hoping that from this point forward maybe there’s a new door to open for us,” Carroll said. “And we can walk through it together with the thought of doing what’s right. What’s right is treating people equally.”
Carroll’s statement came roughly 95 minutes after he had been scheduled to talk to the media, time he was spending meeting with his players on the berm, a place where the entire team can gather and adhere to COVID-19 protocols (three players had originally been scheduled to talk to the media before the team announced Carroll would speak instead, a tipoff that it would not be a normal day.)
The Seahawks said the team will be back on the practice field Sunday for a mock game. But Saturday’s 1 p.m. practice was scrubbed, the day instead used for reflection and for Carroll giving players the time to do one of the things he feels can most affect immediate change — registering to vote.
“We’ve got 60 days,” Carroll said. “There’s a march on Washington that was all about commitment. Well, why not take these 60 days and make a commitment to vote and march together to get everybody in this country to vote so that everybody has the voice and so everybody that needs to speak out gets heard, and we don’t let anybody squelch any aspect of the voting potential. Not one frickin’ vote. And we need to start now. We need to start the process. Register. All of our players will be officially registered today. That’s a start.”
But to Carroll, it’s hardly the end.
In a tone fitting his opening words that he was speaking “about some stuff that’s on my heart,” Carroll said white Americans need to listen and learn more than they have been — about issues with police mistreatment of Blacks and how he feels the country is not living up to the ideals it was founded on.
“This is about racism in America that white people don’t know,” Carroll said. “They don’t know enough. And they need to be coached up and they need to be educated about what the heck is going on in this world. Black people can’t scream anymore. They can’t march anymore, or they can’t bare their souls anymore to what they’ve lived with for hundreds of years because white guys came over from Europe and started a new country with a great idea and great ideals and wrote down great, great, great writings and laws and all of that about democracy and freedom and equality for all.
“And then it ain’t happened. That’s not what happened because we went down this other road here. Follow the economics and rich white guys making money. And they put together a system of slavery. And we’ve never left it, really. It’s never gone away. And the really amazing thing that I’ve learned is Black people know the truth. They know exactly what’s going on. It’s white people that don’t know.”
Carroll, who turns 69 next month and noted Saturday he first began coaching youth leagues when he was 13, said “never before this year” has he had conversations with players “so deep and so rich” about “what the life of a Black man is like in America. Black men and women.” (More than 70% of the Seahawks’ roster is Black.)
His players, Carroll said, “are living scared to death.”
“… And really, law enforcement is a huge issue to our guys, because they’re frightened for their lives. They’re frightened for the lives of their loved ones and their children. They’re frightened, because they don’t know what’s going to happen because of what we continue to see. So they’re crying out, again, and calling for us white people to figure it out and to listen, and to fix all of the obvious problems that we know.”
Carroll urged others in the coaching profession to use their platforms to highlight social justice issues.
“This is a calling today for coaches, specifically, to take that leadership opportunity,” Carroll said. “Let’s step up. No more being quiet. No more being afraid to talk on topics. No more, ‘You know, I might lose my job over this, because I’ve taken a stand here.’ Screw it. We can’t do that anymore. And maybe if we do, we can be a leadership group, a leadership group that stands out and maybe others will follow us.”
The Seahawks became the latest pro sports team to either not practice or not play since Wednesday in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Carroll ended his statement without taking questions and players were not made available to speak to media, but they are expected Sunday when the team is scheduled to hold its final mock game of training camp.
Safety Jamal Adams, acquired in a trade last month from the New York Jets, tweeted shortly after Carroll’s statement that he was appreciative of the speech and the team’s decision Saturday.
“Big thank you to Coach Pete, (general manager) John Schneider & the entire Seahawks organization for really hearing us as Black athletes. This is a special place, like I’ve said before where everyone’s willing to learn and understand that wrong is wrong, and right is right,” Adams tweeted.
The Seahawks had a regularly-scheduled day off Thursday following their mock game at CenturyLink Field the day before, a day in which nine NFL teams did not practice in the wake of the police shooting of Blake.
The Seahawks practiced Friday, but earlier in the day when he met media via Zoom safety Quandre Diggs had indicated that the team was considering options for making a statement, including not practicing.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, earlier in the day, said on 710 ESPN Seattle that the team would not be playing this weekend if a game had been scheduled. The Seahawks’ first game is Sept. 13 at Atlanta.
At least one other NFL team — the Carolina Panthers — also did not practice on Saturday for what one report stated “was social justice related.”
As for the Seahawks, Carroll said hopes one statement was made loud and clear Saturday.
“Our players are screaming at us,” Carroll said. “Can you feel me? Can you see me? Can you hear me? They just want to be respected. They just want to be accepted like all of our white children and families want to be. It’s not different because we are all the same.”