Both the Seahawks and the Titans decided to remain in their locker rooms and not participate in the national anthem prior to their game in Tenneseee.
During hours of meetings on Saturday discussing how to best respond to something they felt had to have a response — comments by President Donald Trump on Friday criticizing the NFL and players who have been protesting social inequalities during the national anthem — the Seahawks decided that whatever they did they had to do together.
“It doesn’t show the kind of power unless it’s the entire team,’’ said cornerback Richard Sherman.
That led to the Seahawks on Sunday deciding to not take the field for the playing of the national anthem before their game against the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans also did not take the field, making it the only game where neither team was on the field for the anthem — Seattle and Tennessee players had spoken Saturday and knew the plans of each other.
Sherman said many ideas were batted around in what he estimated were at least three-and-a-half hours of talks on Saturday, including kneeling with a flag at half-mast.
But while some players wanted to kneel or sit, others did not, and Sherman said the goal was to show unity.
“We wanted to do our best to not ostracize our guys, any of our individuals,’’ Sherman said. “Allow them to feel welcomed and not really make them uncomfortable. That’s the worst thing you could do is put your teammate in an uncomfortable position.
“If we don’t come out, the whole team doesn’t come out, then it’s easy for him to defend himself and say ‘hey, it’s a team decision. I just did what the team did.’ You’re a good teammate. Perfect. Fine.’’
Sherman noted one reason the team decided not to come out for the anthem is that that used to be the norm — players were typically not on the field for the anthem prior to the events of September 11, 2001.
Shortly before the anthem the Seahawks released a statement that read: “As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work towards equality and justice for all. Respectfully, the players of the Seattle Seahawks.”
Tennessee also released a statement reading, “As a team, we wanted to be unified in our actions today. The players jointly decided this was the best course of action. Our commitment to the military and our community is resolute and the absence of our team for the national anthem shouldn’t be misconstrued as unpatriotic.”
Watch: Seahawks, Titans stay in locker room during anthem
After the anthem sung by Meghan Linsey, the teams then walked onto the field with many players locked in arms. Linsey also took a knee as the song ended. Reaction from the crowd didn’t appear strong. While there was some scattered booing as the teams took the field it was hard to tell what the booing was directed at —it could have been aimed at the Seahawks as the visiting team. There appeared little real fan reaction overall, however.
The New York Times reported Sunday night that while teams can be fined for not being on the field for the anthem that the league is not expected to levy any punishment.
During a rally in Huntsville, Ala., Trump took aim at the league and players who have sat for the anthem without mentioning names saying “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!’”
Trump also said that NFL fans should turn and walk out if they see players sitting for the anthem stating “even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop.’’
Players began hearing of Trump’s comments during their flight to Nashville on Friday night.
“It was sad to see that,’’ said quarterback Russell Wilson, who said he agreed with the team’s decision to not be on the field for the anthem.
“I think there were a lot of guys who really wanted to do something and make a difference,’’ Wilson said. “I definitely was one of them, too. I wanted to do something where we could do something unified.’’
Coach Pete Carroll said he was on board with the decision, as well.
“That’s just a statement that they felt they needed to make and I thought it was in a way, it wasn’t a demonstrative thing on the field,’’ Carroll said. “I think it was a classy way to demonstrate your dissent for what had happened.’’
Carroll said he didn’t think the discussion impacted the game, noting that the Titans — who went on to win 33-27 — also went through a similar process.
“I don’t think it had any factor on the game at all,’’ Carroll said.
Carroll said he had specific talks before the game with defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who has been sitting for the anthem.
“I was proud of Mike,’’ Carroll said. “Mike wanted to do the same thing so we did that together.’’
Said Bennett: “We came together and we united and we showed that we have power as people and that’s what we were doing today and I think that was super impressive. … it was pretty exciting to be a part of something that was revolutionary as far as the whole NFL and people coming together as one. It didn’t matter our race, it didn’t matter our politics, it didn’t matter our religion. We came together and we united and we showed that we have power as people and that’s what we were doing today and I think that was super impressive. It was just about showing what we stand for. We stand for equality and with all of the things that are going on in the United States right now, we just wanted to find a way to not isolate people but to come together as a team and we stand by the decision that we made as a team.”
It’s beyond politics, it’s about being a human being, and having dignity and compassion for other human beings, regardless or their race and gender. It’s about bringing people together. For us, it’s always going to be about that. It’s bigger than sports. You’re only a football player for a certain amount of time and for the rest of the time, you’re a human being.”
Players said they did not know if they will continue to not be present for the anthem.
“We haven’t talked about that as a team,’’ said Bennett.
Sherman, asked what’s next, said “with the president what’s next? Your guess is as good as mine.’’
Receiver Doug Baldwin, though, spoke passionately about what he felt is the need to continued action of some sort. He followed up his plea for action in an interview Monday on CNN.
“I think it’s scary that we have a man in office who was elected to protect our basic rights and yet he has shown recently the opposite,” Baldwin said. “I think the media – a lot of the media – can understand, because they’ve gone through very similar situations with him. But, for us as players, directly being called out about not being able to express ourselves – which this great country, and many men and women who have sacrificed their lives for us to be able to express ourselves in that way. That’s the foundational core of who we are as a country, and for that to be threatened by the man who is at the head of the table for our country is a very serious thing. I hope that that message is loud and clear for anybody who’s listening, anybody who’s watching, that they recognize that this is a dangerous time and we recognize that.
“We’re hoping to unite people of all colors, all races, all religions, all beliefs to come together and realize the severity of the situation. This is our country, you know? This is what we were founded on, (it) was a protest. The Boston Tea Party, that was a protest. I think there’s something to be said to make sure we protect the sanctity and the importance of individuals in this country being able to express themselves, and I understand it’s a difficult topic to talk about. I understand we all have our different opinions, we all have our different viewpoints, but that’s what makes our country so great. That’s what makes our country unique and beautiful. That’s why we are where we are, is because we don’t always agree. Just getting 63 guys to agree to do something is difficult in itself, so I can understand how difficult it is for the country. But, sometimes I feel like there’s a line that needs to be drawn and to me, the most important thing we can do at this moment is be unified. Not just as a football team, or as an NFL, or as a city, as a red state, blue state, as a country, as a society, because again, the severity of the situation cannot be (over)stated.”