Seahawks Take On Leadership Role While "Just Trying To Serve"

Thanks to a unique group of leaders and a coach who encourages players to be themselves, the Seahawks find themselves at the forefront of a national conversation.

It wasn't necessarily their intention, but when it comes to NFL teams taking on serious topics such as injustice and inequality, the Seahawks have often found themselves at the forefront of the discussion.

If you turned on CNN this week, you might have seen Seahawks coach Pete Carroll or players like Michael Bennett and Doug Baldwin discussing what has happened around the league since President Donald Trump referred to protesting players as "Sons of (expletives)" and suggested they should be fired, leading players and teams around the league responding in various ways Sunday during the national anthem.

Last year, after Colin Kaepernick began the discussion by protesting during the anthem, the Seahawks spent a lot of time discussing what to do during the anthem and decided to stand together, linking arms, which was what a lot of teams did last weekend as well. And throughout last year players worked to tackle inequality and injustice through the work they do in the community, through an ongoing dialogue with local law enforcement, and through meetings with everyone from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Dr. Harry Edwards, a renowned sociologist and human and civil rights advocate. And when it came to last weekend's demonstrations, the Seahawks were one of the only teams in the league to issue statements from the team and from players that directly reference the issues at hand such as race and inequality.

So it was no surprise that on Friday the Seahawks were the team whose players announced a concrete plan of action, the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund.

"We're just doing what we think is best," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "We're just trying to find out how we fit in this entire situation. We're just trying to serve, and if it happens to be a model for other teams, other organizations, then so be it. Obviously we'd be honored of that would be the case, but we don't see it that way. We just see it as us trying to take action."

Even if Baldwin downplayed the idea of him and his teammates being leaders in a movement, it's not a coincidence that the Seahawks find themselves at the forefront of what increasingly looks to be a very significant moment in league history.

The Seahawks find themselves in this position because they not only have a group of incredibly intelligent, outspoken leaders like Baldwin, Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, but also a head coach, general manager, owner and team president who encourage players to be complete human beings, not just football players. Carroll has long fostered a culture that encourages his players to be themselves and think independently. He does that in part because he believes it leads to better play on the field, but also because he believes in helping his players be their best in all walks of life.

"I think we're incredibly uniquely qualified, because there aren't other locker rooms that are this open, and with a head coach who is this understanding and allows his players to really be involved in these kinds of issues, and doesn't feel like it's a distraction at all," Sherman said. "I think it's the perfect storm of things that allow us to be at the forefront of this."

Added Bennett: "I think this is an organization who gets it, who gets that this is more than the game. There's more to people as they grow, they get the culture, and they get the moment right now. We have a lot of great people, when you have a leader like Pete Carroll who understands people, who takes the time to listen, you have a platform to be able to have constant dialogue with the head person in charge. I think it's Pete Carroll's leadership and the media staff, and to be able to have that, that doesn't happen very often. For them to believe in what you believe in is truly a blessing, and I'm actually humbled to have an organization that would put themselves on the line to be able for us to speak about these issues. A lot of times, we speak about issues like this, people get turned off, people don't want to listen, but to constantly have the backing of your head coach and organization, and good ownership, I think that's something that's really good."

In March, Carroll said the league and its players had an "extraordinary opportunity" to lead during what has been a divisive time for our country, and this week he is proud to have seen that from his team.

"I'm most proud of these guys," Carroll said. "Also because a lot of these guys have kind of grown up with us, we've been in it a long time together, and those that are in the leadership position, I've seen them come to a lot of stages of their young football life really, so it is very rewarding. But most of all, I'm excited because they're going to get stuff done. They really are ready to do the good work.

"I think we're comfortable in the discussion. You can see that that they handle themselves really well, they spend a lot of time on it, they really care. Players all over the league are highly qualified, and our guys are as well, and there may be the willingness that they have to really work at it and they've spent some time on it that makes them available for the topic. And it comes right from their heart so it's the real deal here."

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