Doug Baldwin's letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he co-wrote with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, is just the latest action from the Seahawks receiver who has dedicated so much of his free time over the past year to fighting injustice and inequality.
And while it remains to be seen what effect that letter supporting criminal justice reform has in Washington D.C., the fact that it was co-authored by a player and the league's commissioner is a significant development.
"It's a huge step on a multitude of fronts," Baldwin said. "First and foremost, being able to bring the players together for a collective effort—and we have more coming down that we're working towards—but then also unifying the NFL community. Obviously this has been a divisive topic by nature, just because you have a lot of divisive rhetoric coming from different angles, but this opportunity has given us the ability to unify the NFL community."
Baldwin also co-authored a piece for cnn.com along with Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, 49ers safety Eric Reid and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin calling for bail reform.
Ever since players started protesting issues involving injustice and inequality, beginning with Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 preseason, there have been numerous, drastically different opinions on those protests and about the players who were trying to use their platforms to promote positive change. So for the league and players to come together not just in the form of this letter, but also in the meeting involving players, Goodell, owners and NFLPA leadership that took place in New York Tuesday, is an important step in the process.
"The important aspect of it is us having a unified effort," Baldwin said. "We don't want to be divided anymore. We don't want to engage with this divisive rhetoric. We want to start showing our players, the NFL itself, our NFL community that we can be collectively united to seek the changes that we want to see, which are beneficial to the entirety of society. I thought it was important that we didn't do this as individuals, but that we did it as a collective group."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who recognized last spring that the league and its players had an “extraordinary opportunity” to make an impact that goes far beyond football, is proud to see his players tackling issues that go far beyond football, and he is encouraged to see the league embracing these discussions.
"I think it's really positive," Carroll said. "I am really excited to see that they are taking some steps and working hard at it and not sitting around waiting. They are going for it and trying to figure out what the next steps are. They will move judicially of course, but you can just tell that there is a climate of openness and willingness to exchange and work with the players in a big way. I don't know what has come of it, but that is just the initial feeling going in and it is really encouraging."
On Baldwin's involvement, Carroll said, "I couldn't be more proud of Doug representing us and the players with his perspective, and I think it is really exciting to see that the league recognizes that as well, and they see something in there that was worth joining up and stepping ahead with. This is really important stuff. That adds to the energy of it and the excitement of it and really the optimistic outlook moving forward that we can do something and make some change and start to work together and really do something powerful. There has been so much question about 'Why do players take these opportunities to speak out or demonstrate or whatever?' Well it's because they care, and it's because they are well equipped and they have an opportunity to do something that others might not be able to do, and they are doing it for the right reason, and this is just another indication of that. Anybody that sees it otherwise I don't think understands; I don't think they get it. I think you are seeing the league joining—maybe look at it as locking arms with the players—to see what we can do in a positive way and create change and that is fantastic stuff."
Cornerback Richard Sherman, who has been close with Baldwin since the two were teammates at Stanford, is hardly surprised that his old friend is at the center of this movement.
"Doug is an incredible person in basically all aspects of his life," Sherman said. "I think football is actually one of the smaller parts of who he is and what he's about. He has an incredible intellect, and an incredible ability to reach people and to follow through on things that he wants to. People always say that I'm going to be in politics, but I would guess that Doug's going to beat me to politics; that's much more of his style. But I think that what he's doing with Goodell is fantastic. He's been doing that work for years now; meeting with police, and trying to work to change.
"I think that's what gets missed sometimes with players, because they're like 'Oh, stick to sports, stick to this.' And a lot of people have used the phrase like 'privileged athletes.' 'Oh, these privileged athletes, you guys are rich millionaires.' And it's like, 'Well, seven years ago, I had negative $45.00 in my account. What was I then?' You know what I mean? I was still a black guy, I was still a kid from the 'hood, and we will never forget those moments. What privilege did we have? You know? The privilege to be blessed that our hard work and dedication paid off, and that we were able to change our family's lives, to change our lives, and to live better. That doesn't change our memories, what we remember happening in our childhood. I think that's something that sticks true to him as well, and sticks true to a lot of players. That's why guys are so passionate about coming together and making a difference and making a stand, and doing everything they can in terms of making a difference for social injustice, because no matter what, before we had all of this money, and after we're dead and gone, our skin is still black, we'll still be looked at a certain way, and all we want is equality for everyone. I don't think that's too much to ask, and it's just great to have a guy like Doug continuing that fight, and continuing to take it beyond what others have done."
Team photographer Rod Mar shares exclusive behind-the-scenes images from the Seahawks' 16-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams during Week 5 at L.A. Coliseum.