Tobin “wasn’t comfortable at all” with the Seahawks’ decision to remain in the locker room Sunday. But after President Trump’s comments about players, Tobin knew teammates would not want to stand. So he made the sacrifice.
RENTON — The word “unity” has been getting tossed around a lot lately, and much of the time it feels empty and contrived. Here’s an example of where it was real.
Offensive tackle Matt Tobin has been with the Seahawks for just over a month. He was traded to a team whose outspoken nature stands in stark contrast to that of his hometown.
Tobin said folks from Worthington, Iowa, don’t typically go around spouting their political opinions. His teammates, on the other hand, speak whatever is on their minds.
Matt likes the uncensored dialogue, though, and thinks it benefits the team and community. It also has exposed him to perspectives he might not have otherwise heard.
But when it comes to participating in that dialogue, Tobin typically takes a pass.
“I don’t say much,” he said. “I have a little bit different views, so I keep it quiet.”
Like a few of his teammates, Tobin “wasn’t comfortable at all” with the Seahawks’ decision to remain in the locker room during the national anthem before Sunday’s game at Tennessee. He thinks there are “plenty of other ways to get the message out” and would have liked to “go out there and respect the flag.”
But in the wake of President Donald Trump’s “son of a bitch” comments Friday regarding players who had not stood for the anthem, Tobin also knew most of his teammates would have felt equally uncomfortable standing. So he made the sacrifice and stayed inside.
“I told Coach (Pete) Carroll that (I was uncomfortable), but I told him I would do it to support the team and not be a distraction,” said Tobin, who spent his first four NFL seasons with Philadelphia. “He just thanked me for being a part of the team.”
Though not naming names, Tobin said he had spoken with a few teammates who shared his point of view. He added that they’d thought about walking out for the anthem before concluding it would be a bad look.
“There were five or six guys, but we were all white,” said Tobin, adding that his family wasn’t too happy about him staying inside. “We’d be sending a message, but we’d be sending the wrong message to our teammates.”
You have to credit Tobin for having the stones to talk about this openly. He’s a backup lineman going against the popular opinion despite just getting here in August.
But you also have to credit the Seahawks for respecting his and others’ views. As Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman explained after the game Sunday, there were more provocative proposals rejected before the team decided to stay in the locker room for the anthem.
“We wanted to do our best to not ostracize our guys, any of our individuals,” Sherman said. “That’s the worst thing you could do.”
Sherman took the podium again Wednesday and was his usual candid self. While answering a question about how his postgame comments were received, he said there “are certain people in this world who already have their opinions made up — their eyes are closed, their ears are closed.”
Perhaps some of you think this is true of Tobin when it comes to anthem protests. It isn’t.
Tobin acknowledges he was “100 percent against” then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s demonstrations last year. Then Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett was handcuffed and held at gunpoint in Las Vegas last month.
That affected Tobin. Now he’s fine with those who take a knee.
“When Colin first started doing it, I thought there was a different way to do it,” Tobin said. “It really didn’t hit me until Mike had that happen to him in Vegas. And then it was like, ‘Holy (expletive), this is actually real.’”
So let’s review for a second. You have a guy such as Matt Tobin, who feels one way about an issue but is willing to listen to those he disagrees with. And then you have his teammates, who are willing to do the same with him. And because of this willingness to listen, a man with a hard-line stance is willing to change it when injustice occurs.
That’s what these protests are supposed to be about. They might cause discomfort, they might cause tension, but they do have a purpose.
The players kneeling — some of whom have familial connections to the police and military — aren’t desecrating the flag or spitting on the country. They’re just trying to get others to realize that, holy (expletive) — this is actually real.