Pete Carroll turned his team meeting Monday into a two-hour opportunity for players to speak about the recent protests over the death of George Floyd.
On Tuesday it was the Seahawks coach’s turn as he devoted almost the entire hour and six minutes of his new podcast that he hosts with Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr — Flying Coach — to the topic of the death of Floyd, a Black man who died after his neck was pressed under the knee of a white police officer for nearly nine minutes, and other issues related to race relations in America.
The conversation included Kerr asking Carroll about the on-field protests of then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who first sat, and then knelt, for the national anthem to protest police brutality in America. Carroll’s comments about Kaepernick drew some social-media criticism from noted media members as well as Kaepernick’s partner, radio and TV personality Nessa Diab.
“There was a moment in time that a young man captured,” Carroll said. “ … He stood up for something that he believed in. What an extraordinary moment it was that he was willing to take. I don’t know that he had any idea what the impact would be, as it turned out. But what a symbol of courage and vision.”
Carroll referred to Kaepernick’s stance as a big sacrifice.
“I think it was a big sacrifice, in the sense, that a young man makes,” Carroll said. “But those are the courageous moments that some guys take, and we owe a tremendous amount to him, for sure.”
There was no mention of the Seahawks bringing in Kaepernick for a workout in May 2017 or having another meeting scheduled with Kaepernick in 2018 that was canceled, reportedly when Kaepernick said he didn’t know his plans for his social activism, including whether he would stand for the anthem.
Carroll said in June 2017 about the team’s decision not to sign Kaepernick: “Colin has been a fantastic football player, and he’s going to continue to be. At this time, we didn’t do anything with it, but we know where he is and who he is, and we had a chance to understand him much more so. He’s a starter in this league. We have a starter, but he’s a starter in this league and I can’t imagine that somebody won’t give him a chance to play.”
In 2018 Carroll said the Seahawks “are still watching” Kaepernick and could still consider signing him. He reiterated that stance last November when he said he was disappointed the Seahawks were unable to attend a workout held by Kaepernick in Atlanta.
Kaepernick has not signed with a team since he became a free agent following the 2016 season when he opted out of his contract after the 49ers told him he would be released.
Nessa tweeted to Carroll that “You @PeteCarroll are the same person, on the same team, that wouldn’t hire @Kaepernick7 because he took a knee. Don’t ever try to act like you were on his side. You’ve kept him from a job until this day.”
Jemele Hill, a contributing writer for The Atlantic, quote-tweeted writer Dave Zirin (who was the co-author on Michael Bennett’s book “Things that Make White People Uncomfortable”), stating “Alllllllllll of this. Pete Carroll is being extra fake right now.”
Zirin tweeted an ESPN quote of Carroll’s comments: “Seahawks could have had him. But they were more focused on getting rid of Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman and other “disruptors” in the locker room. There is so much revisionist history going on in the wide world of sports.”
The Seahawks traded Bennett and released Sherman in March 2018.
Carroll, earlier in the podcast, called it “sickening” to watch the video of the death of Floyd and the reaction the other three officers involved.
“All the white guys sitting right there that could have helped out and they didn’t?” he said. “ … It’s (happened) again is what kills us. Again it happened.”
Monday’s team meeting, Carroll said, was conducted in the hopes “of finding some kind of sense of understanding of how do we take the next step. … the point is that we are trying to interact as much as we can with our guys and listen and learn and grow and find a place where we can act and do something productive.”
Carroll said he wanted to “let guys speak their hearts and them talking about how this is impacting them and affecting them.”
Carroll said that many of the players talked about the need to be active in upcoming elections.
“Our guys talked a lot about voting, about making their voices heard,” he said. “Coaches admitted that they hadn’t voted in years past, but they are going to vote like never before, and players were saying the same thing.”
Carroll also stressed two other main points — a need for increased education in schools of the history of racism in America and increased awareness by white Americans of current realities.
“We can’t live with an oblivious way of looking at this,” Carroll said. “We can’t do that. It’s the privilege that white people have, living obliviously to what is going on. That ain’t OK. And so I’m trying to convey that to our guys that they see it that way. That we are trying to learn from each other and we move ahead together.
“ … The problem lies in the white communities not responding and the awareness not being adequate enough so see, hear, feel the indiscretions that have happened and we react on it and we respond. (That) our conscious doesn’t allow us to do anything but respond.”
Carroll, who earned a secondary teaching credential at Pacific University, said he thinks American schools need to do a better job teaching the history of racism.
“I think that there could be such value, if within the education system, we taught the history of racism in America or the history of racism,” Carroll said.
Carroll said he would be “jumping on the table” for the addition of such a curriculum.
“Without recognizing that history, without acknowledging it and calling it exactly like it is, what are we even talking about?” Carroll said. “No wonder people don’t know. No wonder people can remain oblivious; no wonder they can stay living in privilege.”
Carroll’s suggestion for better education of the history of racism came after Kerr said he felt the current situation is “400 years in the making.”
“In our country there has been a refusal to reconcile the sins of our past,” Kerr said.
“I think probably the thing that has to be done before anything is an understanding and an awareness that there needs to be a reconciliation, an admission of guilt. … It’s our responsibility to admit that this is going on in our country and let’s look at our past and let’s truly examine our past.”
Carroll called the protests “an extraordinary demonstration that we need to see. There are some horrible parts of it, but protest is awesome because people are expressing their views and their visions and they are willing to put themselves out. We need that to happen on all levels, as well as reaching to the highest level. And whatever we could do to influence that is worthwhile, for sure.”
On Wednesday afternoon Carroll tweeted a statement titled “Where Do We Go From Here?” stating in part that what he feels is necessary is creating a culture of “New Empathy.”