SEATTLE - Kevin Pierre-Louis felt "very strange" pulling into CenturyLink Field's parking garage knowing he wouldn't be heading directly to the Seahawks locker room. Instead, the third-year linebacker was on site for a soccer contest between Haiti and Peru, the first of three COPA America Centenario matches scheduled at the venue this month.
"I had the tickets and I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm used to going into the locker room from here. I have no idea where I'm going right now. I need to get some help,'" Pierre-Louis said. "That was pretty funny."
Accompanied by second-year pro Khairi Fortt, the pair of Seahawks linebackers eventually made their way to their seats, where Pierre-Louis proudly touted a Haitian flag in support of his roots.
"Honestly, as cliche as it sounds, it means more than words can ever show," Pierre-Louis, who has relatives from Haiti on both sides of his family, said of his attendance at Saturday's match. "Since I was a little kid, I've always had a serious pride for the Haitian culture, them getting their independence. I remember in high school warm-ups I always had a Haiti flag on my arm. I had one someone had made for me, wrapped it up, I wore it every day. Then, when I went to college I always had my Haitian flag in my locker. I've been fortunate enough to play for the Seahawks and I always have my Haitian flag in my locker.
"Any chance I get to represent Haiti, I always do. It's just a part of me that I'm really proud of."
Pierre-Louis has paid one visit to his family's native land, one that came when he was just 10 years old. In 2010, Pierre-Louis had an opportunity to visit his 30-plus relatives in the country or enroll early at Boston College. Had he chosen the trip to Haiti, he could have found himself in the middle of a devastating earthquake that hit regions where his relatives lived.
"I would have been there when everything happened," Pierre-Louis said. "Now, I'm definitely going to go back next offseason for sure. I love that place."
On the pitch this past weekend, the Haiti national team fell 1-0. Despite the result, Pierre-Louis said the match - and the COPA tournament as a whole - served as a significant opportunity for the world to come together.
"I just feel as though we begin to separate ourselves too much," he said. "You see it almost every day. It's a team versus another team, it's you versus me, it's women versus men. We create these separations when it should actually be about us doing something together, especially when it comes to something like soccer where it's a world event and you truly have different countries and nations against each other. It's easy just to see someone, a Peruvian to see a Haitian and be like, 'I don't like that person, even though I don't know them.' So it's just an important reminder to me to just have fun, enjoy the game for what it really is.
"It's not about country versus country, it's about everyone coming together and showing something positive."