The Seahawks’ decision Sunday to remain in the locker room during the national anthem before Sunday’s game at Tennessee was about his players “making a statement” following comments by President Donald Trump, coach Pete Carroll said
This week, Carroll said, is about “moving forward. It’s about making a difference. I think that our players sense that, the coaches sense that, that we’d really like to focus and make sure that football is really at hand.”
Carroll’s comments, and those of a few players, have hinted that the Seahawks might approach the anthem differently this week, possibly not repeating what they did in Nashville. It was the result of lengthy meetings held Saturday that spilled into pregame Sunday after the team had learned of Trump’s comments critical of the NFL, and players such as Michael Bennett who have been sitting during the anthem.
Exactly what they might do this week, though, remains unclear.
“I don’t know,” right guard Oday Aboushi said wryly, noting how quickly things evolved last week. “It’s only Wednesday.”
The statement the team made last weekend in Tennessee, though, could resonate for a long time. And a few statements made by quarterback Russell Wilson apparently did the same as the players tried to sort out what to do.
Cornerback Richard Sherman on Wednesday expanded on comments he made to Sports Illustrated over the weekend that Wilson had “an epiphany’’ when he saw what Trump had said and took a lead role in helping the team decide what statement to make.
“I don’t think he was ever not in the effort,’’ Sherman said of Wilson. “But I think it was him being more active than he had been in the past.’’
Sherman said he understood why Wilson might have previously been reluctant to be more active and instead act cautiously.
“At times in this league the quarterbacks are looked at differently, obviously, for various reasons,’’ Sherman said. “They touch the ball every play, a lot of times they are the most recognizable names and faces on a team and they have certain brands to protect, certain images to uphold. And you understand that. You understand that as players.’’
But Saturday and Sunday in Nashville, Sherman said Wilson was willing to throw that caution to the wind, providing suggestions about what kind of statement to make.
“I think him opening up and understanding that this was a bigger issue and that it will have an effect on not only him but his family and his kids kind of woke him up,” Sherman said. “And I think that’s awesome. He was very human, he was very vulnerable talking to the team, and I think that was a huge moment for him, and I was incredibly proud of him.’’
Judged from a strictly football standpoint, that could prove to be a pivotal moment for the Seahawks given past conjecture that there has at times been some friction between the offense — and specifically Wilson — and the defense, and specifically Sherman. Or maybe it shows that such rumors were always overstated, as Sherman, Wilson and others have contended all along.
Receiver Doug Baldwin also seemed to refer to Wilson’s involvement after Sunday’s game when he said, “I was really encouraged by Russell Wilson’s play. He had a lot going on, and for him to be as resilient as he was today just reminded us all of why he is who he is, why he is Russell Wilson and why we love him so much.”
Regardless of what’s true about the past, Sherman speaking so fondly and publicly of Wilson would seem to indicate that if there were any issues between the two they might be gone.
That’s what Carroll had wanted, that the team sort out what it would do together and then take action as a team, presenting a united front.
Carroll used his weekly news conference Wednesday to again back what the players did, saying the fact that they wanted to make a statement is “a marvelous thing. They love our country, they love our flag, they love everything that we stand for. They just want to try to do their part when they have a chance, and I think that is incredibly important.”
Carroll said he didn’t think the meetings of last weekend “had any factor” on Sunday’s game, a 33-27 loss to the Titans, and added that he thought the events “only bring us closer together and gives us more opportunity to appreciate one another. … I think that we grow and learn from these experiences that will benefit us in numerous ways.”
Carroll, in fact, relayed a story to his team Wednesday about UCLA coach John Wooden keeping his team in the locker room for the anthem because star player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had begun sitting for the anthem after converting to Islam (even though he wouldn’t make a public conversion until after leaving college).
“They wanted to take a stand and make a statement about social injustice,’’ Carroll said of Wooden and UCLA. “It was received much differently back in the day. This is not the first time that this has happened, it’s just the next time, and it’s a very significant time.’’
But Carroll also said he thinks players understand every week and situation is different.
“There is nothing lost in the sincerity of the statements that were made,” Carroll said. “Nothing lost in the willingness to make a difference as we move forward. But it is really important for all of us. We feel it. Everybody wants to really do everything we can to make sure the games that we play are going to be played the best we can possibly play them and with all the focus it takes and all of that. There is time. There is time to do other things. I hope that you will see that across the board. I know I can feel it in our locker room with our guys, and I would bet that there are other teams feeling very much the same.’’
Sherman appeared to agree. Last week, he said, the team had a clear goal with what it wanted to do but this week remains unclear.
“That’s still to be discussed,” Sherman said. “Because last week was a pivotal moment for the league in general to stand to show continuity and to show togetherness and to show that we will not be bullied, in a sense, by the President of the United States and his words, we will not be divided by those words, and I think that was awesome. Each week will be different; I’m sure guys will do different things, but I think the message came across, and I think guys are going to look for more ways to get involved and make a difference in other ways.”