The Seahawks receiver had a lot to say Thursday about the continued controversy over the NFL's stance on the national anthem.
A few days ago, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin was hoping he wouldn’t be in a position anytime soon to be asked a question about the national anthem and a statement by president Donald Trump that would result in a headline-making comment.
Baldwin, like many of his NFL-playing counterparts, thought the issue of players making protests during the anthem was receding and the focus turning to the league acting in concert with players to address their concerns that led to the protests in the first place.
He was ready, in other words, to stick to football for a while, at least when it came to anything happening on the field.
But then the NFL announced a new policy on Wednesday requiring all players to stand for the anthem and act in a respectful manner if they are on the field, essentially mandating that any protests happen behind closed doors, with teams potentially being fined if players didn’t comply.
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That was followed Thursday by a comment from Trump in an interview on Fox News that “maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” if you don’t stand for the anthem.
And that led to Baldwin being asked about Trump’s comment following the team’s Organized Team Activity workout.
“He’s an idiot, plain and simple,’’ Baldwin responded. “I mean, listen, I respect the man because he’s a human being, first and foremost. But he’s just being more divisive, which is not surprising. It is what it is. But for him to say that anybody who doesn’t follow his viewpoints or his constituent’s viewpoints should be kicked out of the country is not very empathetic. It’s not very American-like, actually to me.It’s not very patriotic. It’s not what this country was founded upon so it’s kind of ironic to me that the President of the United States is contradicting what our country is really built on.”
But that was hardly all Baldwin — who now is one of the team’s most senior members having entered the NFL in 2011 and has long been one of its most active players in the community — had to say.
Baldwin said the NFL’s new policy only revived the issue and agreed that some players who maybe had moved on from protesting in any manner might now consider again taking a stance.
“I think the NFL really missed it this time,’’ he said, then adding “I just think again it has inflamed this whole situation where we as players thought it was calming down. Again with the conversations we have had with the players’ coalition with the NFL, the communication back and forth with the league office with (commissioner) Roger Goodell, with (NFL executive vice president) Troy Vincent, I thought that we were on a good track. And again saying that we would be coming to an amicable relationship in working towards the thing that we wanted to see and I felt personally in doing so you would see the demonstrations subside and this conversation subside as it pertains to the NFL. However, with this policy, with the inflammatory statement that Roger Goodell put out yesterday again you opened the door for response and again to my point earlier I think they missed it on that one.’’
Both Baldwin and quarterback Russell Wilson said they agreed that the NFL’s stance was tantamount to telling the players to shut up.
“Pretty much,’’ Wilson said. “I think that’s part of it. It seems that way.’’
Both Baldwin and Wilson also said that the continued attention on the protests themselves takes away from what the players were protesting for — attempting to find ways to solve issues such as discrimination, misconduct by police and generally helping communities.
“I felt on the Players Coalition side of things we were coming to an amicable agreement and relationship and working toward initiatives and causes that we wanted to see as players addressed, I thought that you would see the demonstrations and the issues within the NFL dissipate,’’ Baldwin said. “But again, when you stoke the fire and inflame a gap that was really dissipating at the time, diffusing, you cause more problems. That’s why I say I think the NFL missed it.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll agreed with the overall sentiment expressed by Wilson and Baldwin that he felt the teams and players “were in the process of figuring this out and how to put it together,’’ — essentially hinting that there wouldn’t have been protests this season.
Now, Carroll said, it’s an issue the team will again have to work through.
“We were making, I think, real progress,’’ Carroll said. “I think this illustration of new statement of what is going to be and all that is going to have an effect and we are going to have to deal with that and I was kind of liking the way it was going. So now it is kind of taking it out of control of the coaches and the players in the locker room to a certain extent. So we are going to have to deal with that. In time we will figure it out.”
Carroll said it was too soon to know how the team might react but that whatever the team does it will do together.
“I’m counting on us doing it together,’’ Carroll said. “Whatever we do, whatever happens here.’’
Carroll said the Seahawks would continue to support their players in any way they can.
But he also said he understands that for many people football is an escape for some people and a game that is “an extraordinary institution in our country’’ and that it is “unfortunate’’ that the continued emphasis on the anthem and players’ protests “is distracting from that.’’
“This place is going to stand up, our guys are going to continue to stand up and do what we need to do,’’ Carroll said. “But football is football and I would like to keep it football as much as possible and make it fun and the kind of game that we love. But we need to deal with the rest of it and deal with it in a really good manner.’’
And while Baldwin said he didn’t know what kinds of actions players may take next season he said to expect something to happen.
“We’ll have conversations,’’ Baldwin said. “It’s yet to be seen. … I think the relationship with the NFL and the players itself is, again, it’s to be seen. But I go back to my earlier statement. This doesn’t change anything for the players, what we’ve been doing off the field, the changes that we’re trying to make and the changes that we’re going to make, it doesn’t change that. It is just disappointing that the NFL has not seen that the majority of the players in this locker room, the majority of them are African American and how this impacts them, that the NFL was reluctant to reach out to those players and see why this matters to them so much. I will speak on behalf of those who did not take a knee, those who did not demonstrate in any other way. I didn’t take a knee, I didn’t raise a fist, I didn’t sit down. I stood. However, I’m sitting here telling you that I’m disappointed in the NFL’s policy. And that’s just because the way that they went about it and the lack of communication they had with the players who they’re supposed to represent.’’