Oday Aboushi, who's in the mix for the Seahawks' starting right guard spot, graduated from the University of Virginia, and says the violence in Charlottesville is in no way an accurate representation of the character of the town
RENTON — With the Seahawks in Carson, Calif. getting ready for their first preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers, offensive guard Oday Aboushi tried to spend last Saturday focused on football.
But it was impossible for him to ignore the news coming out of Charlottesville, Va., the town where he’d spent four years at the University of Virginia playing offensive tackle for the Cavaliers.
What started as a white nationalists rally on Friday night turned violent by Saturday morning as counter-protestors clashed with a group of white nationalists. Skirmishes broke out and a woman was killed when a white nationalist plowed his car into a crowded street full of counter protestors. The situation got so bad that Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.
“I saw some of it. It was pretty upsetting especially because UVA was such a great time for me and that’s not what Charlottesville stands for,” Aboushi said Tuesday after the Seahawks’ practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “The community around there, athletics, the university doesn’t condone any of that stuff.”
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As the Seahawks prepare for their second preseason game against Minnesota at Centurylink Stadium this Friday, much of the dialogue coming out of training camp this week has focused on an athlete’s role in the political sphere. These discussions were ignited by defensive end Michael Bennett’s decision to remain seated for the national anthem before the game against the Chargers.
Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin told reporters Tuesday that he supported Bennett’s decision, and did not rule out the possibility that he might join Bennett in not standing for the anthem as the season unfolds.
Baldwin too said he was disturbed by the riots in Charlottesville over the weekend.
“How could you not be upset by it?” Baldwin said. “It’s a difficult situation to even just fathom, and especially as it’s still going on in our country today. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m also very upset about it.”
Aboushi, who is one of a small handful of Palestine-American players who have made it to the NFL, said the Charlottesville he knew from his days at Virginia was a “very tolerant” place.
“Everyone was always treated with the same respect and always given the same opportunities. That’s why I was surprised to see something like that happen in Charlottesville,” Aboushi said.
Aboushi said he still has some friends and acquaintances who live in Charlottesville or work in the athletic department at Virginia, and after news about the riots broke, he got in touch with everyone to make sure they were OK.
The violence in Charlottesville hit him hard but, “honestly, I think it’ll surprise anybody nowadays,” Aboushi said. “We’re in 2017 and still dealing with stuff like that, and things we thought we’d be ahead of at this time in society. And we’re not.
“So honestly, whether you’re Arab-American or Jewish-American or whatever it may be, I feel like (everyone) will probably have the same surprised reaction to what’s going on.”
Aboushi grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. His parents moved to the U.S. from the town of Beit Hanina in Palestine, and he’s the ninth in a family of 10 children, but the only one who’s trying to make a living as a professional athlete.
“From doctors to lawyers, we’ve got the whole bunch in there,” Aboushi said of his siblings. “My brothers played sports in high school and college, and my youngest brother is in med school right now in Miami.”
Aboushi began his NFL career with his hometown team, the New York Jets, when they drafted him in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. But he started only 10 games before he was waived in 2015.
He spent two seasons with the Houston Texans before he signed with the Seahawks in May, and is now battling for a starting spot at right guard.
Aboushi played only 10 offensive snaps in the Seahawks’ win over the Chargers last Sunday, and said he gave his best effort even though the limited snaps made it tough to get into a rhythm. But he and Mark Glowinski are still locked in a competition for that right guard job.
“Those two guys have done a nice job,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday, adding that Glowinski has looked more comfortable on the right side of the line than on the left, where he played last year, while lauding Aboushi for the veteran savvy he’s brought to the position.
“Aboushi has been a really great addition. He brings more experience than what we’ve had,” Carroll said. “He brings a toughness and attitude that we like, and also the experience and ability to recognize stuff he sees, and he communicates really well.”