For more than a year, Seahawks players have worked not just on continuing a dialogue about injustice and inequality, but about following through with action.
“The difference between a mob and a movement is a follow through,” was the message players heard from sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards last summer.
And ever since the conversation started with Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the National Anthem during the 2016 preseason, the Seahawks have been a team of action. From discussions with Edwards and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; to meetings with various law enforcement agencies and politicians throughout the state; to the formation of taskforce aiming to build a bridge between law enforcement and local communities; to Doug Baldwin traveling to Olympia on an off day to address the Washing State Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing Joint Legislative Task Force; to the recently announced Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund, Seahawks players have walked the walk while also using their platforms to continue the discussion.
This week, Baldwin, who has been at the forefront of so much of what the Seahawks have done over the past year, co-authored a letter with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that was sent Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee calling for criminal justice reform.
The letter, which is addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin and Senators Mike Lee and Sheldon Whitehouse, begins by offering “the National Football League's full support for the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 (S. 1917). We want to add our voice to the broad and bipartisan coalition of business leaders, law enforcement officials, veterans groups, civil rights organizations, conservative thought leaders, and faith-based organizations that have been working for five years to enact the changes called for in this comprehensive legislation.
The letter also states, “When the hometowns of our players or the 32 communities in which our clubs are located are hurting - whether from natural disasters or those that are man-made - so too are our teams. And like most Americans, our owners, players, coaches and clubs spring into action to help. Over the last two seasons, one particular issue that has come to the forefront for our players and our teams is the issue of justice for all. Last season, as part of our My Cause My Cleats initiative, several players chose to highlight equality and justice on their cleats, while others chose causes related to supporting the difficult work of law enforcement. These expressions of player advocacy aptly capture the challenges we currently face as a nation - ensuring that every American has equal rights and equal protection under the law, while simultaneously ensuring that all law enforcement personnel have the proper resources, tools, and training and are treated with honor and respect.”
The letter includes an excerpt from a memo Baldwin sent to owners, stating that this is about “doing the right thing for the right reasons… love and empathy are more important attributes than a forty time or route-running ability… yearning for justice and equality is something that all human kind can understand.”
Baldwin, whose father was a police officer in Pensacola, Florida for 35 years, was one of several players who spoke in depth about his team’s activism following Seattle’s Week 3 game in Tennessee in which both teams stayed in their locker rooms during the National Anthem just two days after President Donald Trump called for owners to fire “son of a (expletive)” players who protest during the anthem.
“I’m calling on people in our country to realize this is greater than just football, this is greater than just your Sunday evening entertainment,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “It’s bigger than that.
“I want to make sure you all understand that I’m not speaking for everybody in our locker room. I’m speaking from heart personally. These are my thoughts: 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… For us as players, directly being called out about not being able to express ourselves—and many men and women 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, it’s a very serious thing. I hope that that message is loud and clear for anybody who is listening, 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, what we were founded on was a protest—the Boston Tea Party, that was a protest. I think there’s something to be said to make sure that 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 that 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, because we don’t always agree. Just getting 63 guys to all agree to do something, that’s difficult within 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, and not just as a football team, or as the NFL or as a city, as a red state, blue state, but as a country, as a society. Because again, the severity of this situation cannot be understated.”