Seattle Seahawks Wide Receiver Is 'Quietly' Involved In Anthem Protest

Oct 17, 2017
Originally published on October 17, 2017 8:11 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, let's turn now to the NFL. At a lengthy press conference yesterday, President Trump went after players, again, who have decided to kneel during the national anthem.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It is very disrespectful to our country when they take a knee during the national anthem, number one. Number two, the people of our country are very angry at the NFL.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Today in New York, NFL owners and a group of players are meeting to talk about the controversy that has roiled the league in recent weeks. A joint statement from the NFL and its players' union says they will address the important social issues that players have raised through the protest. Doug Baldwin will be closely watching what comes out of this meeting. The star wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks has been deeply and quietly involved with the protest movement. Here's NPR's Tom Goldman.

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BRIAN JAMES: (Singing) Oh, say, can you see by the...

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: In this era of sports protest, NFL sidelines have become must-see TV during the pregame anthem. Cameras linger on players kneeling, sitting, raising a fist, which is why you don't often see Doug Baldwin.

DOUG BALDWIN: I stand with my head bowed in prayer.

GOLDMAN: Praying not only for fellow players protesting...

BALDWIN: ...But also for our communities and for our country to come back together because obviously, it's more divided than it's been in the - in recent history.

GOLDMAN: Football players found themselves at the intersection of that division last year when Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee to protest police shootings of African-Americans and social inequality. It's been big news, and the media have regularly reached out to Doug Baldwin, but his involvement in this new protest movement has gone way beyond the occasional interview. Baldwin, who is African-American, the son of a police officer and a self-described man of faith, is on a journey.

BALDWIN: ...Trying to figure out what I stand for, what I believe in and how I fit into the bigger picture of everything.

GOLDMAN: Practically speaking, Doug Baldwin has gotten busy. When I met him recently at the Seahawks practice facility in Renton, Wash., he showed up with two sheets of paper.

BALDWIN: But this is a list of all the people that we've met with, whether it be people in the Hispanic community, mayors, police officers, attorney generals, body camera technology companies, state representatives.

GOLDMAN: This is two full pages front and back of organizations.

BALDWIN: Yeah - of people that I've personally spoken to, trying to learn the complexity of the issues themselves.

GOLDMAN: Baldwin also had a little book containing notes and thoughts.

BALDWIN: ...Trying to map out what I think the bigger picture looks like and where the holes are that I can possibly dive into to try to figure out solutions to.

GOLDMAN: Baldwin didn't let me see what's in the book or on his list. He says he doesn't want publicity to influence the honesty he's striving for in his meetings. There's a purity to that, but one wonders if publicizing efforts away from the football field demonstrations, showing an NFL player following through, trying to effect change - whether that might sway some of those outraged by the demonstrations.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Booing).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Boo.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Boo.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Yelling) Stand down.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: (Yelling) Stand down.

GOLDMAN: A recent PBS NewsHour-Marist Poll found 46 percent of U.S. adults believe the protests are disrespectful, even though Doug Baldwin insists they're not against the anthem, the country, the military.

BALDWIN: Individuals have told me, I agree that, you know, there's issues in our society. But can you find a better way to do it? Honestly, I have a hard time with that because, you know, it's - you're basically telling somebody, well, complain on my terms when it's convenient for me. And that's the opposite of the intent of these peaceful demonstrations. It is to irritate you. It is to bring awareness to these issues.

GOLDMAN: Irritated NFL fans can affect the bottom line. Baldwin understands NFL owners have to consider that while still being responsive to the societal concerns of a growing number of the league's players, about 70 percent of whom are African-American. Owners, he says, have immense power to influence legislation to build stadiums. He wants to see that channeled into support for politicians and initiatives focused on helping society. For Baldwin and other protesters, there was a hopeful sign Monday. An NFL spokesman said the league will endorse a criminal justice reform bill in Congress that would, among other provisions, reduce sentences for lesser crimes. I asked Baldwin if there is a finite number of steps, like this one, that could end demonstrations.

BALDWIN: I'm not foolish enough to believe that progress ever has an end date when it comes to humankind. And so I'm not looking for an end goal. I'm looking for a continuum of progress and for leaders in organizations and people of all races to understand that and to join in that progress.

GOLDMAN: After today's meeting, Doug Baldwin hopes to get a sense of what the climate is for progress. And that'll determine where he goes next on his journey. Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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