There is a core of players on the Seattle Seahawks who have been uniquely outspoken in recent years. They are the leading exemplars of the “new political athlete,” unafraid to speak out on hot-button issues related to race, labor, and the elections. This is the team of cornerback Richard Sherman, who has challenged media stereotyping of black athletes and the exploitation of the NCAA. This is the team of defensive end Michael Bennett, who sported his Bernie Sanders hat to practice and publicly—as well as respectfully—argued with Sherman in dueling press conferences about the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is the team of receiver Doug Baldwin, who has been pushing for players to speak up about racial inequity.
One can imagine this small crew of Seahawks seeing the attention garnered by Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests against police violence, and immediately trying to amplify his message. Instead, Seahawks management has steered this desire by the team to do something into safe avenues that have little in common with Kaepernick’s call for justice.
The hijacking of the Seahawks’ desire to act started when Doug Baldwin spoke early last week about plans for a team-wide demonstration during the anthem. There was one problem. Players with ties “close to the military,” as the NFL Network put it, didn’t want any part of it. At that point, the team really should have decided that players who wanted to kneel would kneel and left it at that. Instead, it wound up with a team-building exercise where players linked arms with their coaches to showcase ”team unity,” “honoring the country,” and “building a bridge”—or, as Damon Young acidly wrote in GQ:
They…linked arms. Because unity and freedom and ketchup or something.
Basically, they pulled a fast one on us. And by “pulled a fast one on us” I mean “pulled some #AllLivesMatter placards out of their collective asses, and passed them out to the crowd.”
Then, on Monday, the corporate rollout began. An article was posted on the team website called “Seahawks Hope To Build A Bridge With Follow Through.” This is the team’s mission statement about how it is going to effect change.
The piece starts by hitting all the right notes. It immediately connects the team-sanctioned plan with Kaepernick, writing, “The Seahawks, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other players and teams around the league have gotten people’s attention with pregame demonstrations, now their goal is to follow through with action and meaningful conversation.” It mentions that Richard Sherman spoke to legendary sports sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards about the need to “do something.”
Doug Baldwin also quotes Harry Edwards. “He said the difference between a mob and a movement is a follow through.”
This all sounds great, except… follow through to what? A bridge to what? What “actions and meaningful conversations” are being proposed? According to the team wesite, the goal is to “bring together local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve,” and “meet with Seattle mayor Ed Murray, as well as police chiefs from departments around the state.”