DuPont Mayor Mike Courts started Tuesday night’s City Council meeting by apologizing to residents for postponing Saturday’s rally in support of the Seattle Seahawks as rumors circulated about a protest during the national anthem.
On Sunday, Seahawks players locked arms in solidarity as the national anthem played before their game against the Miami Dolphins to show unity and raise awareness for racial and judicial inequalities in the United States.
The gesture came in the wake of one first made by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has sat or knelt during the national anthem for the team’s five preseason and regular-season games.
“Although I strongly disagree with this protest vehicle, I support this protest message,” said Courts, who said his decadeslong career as a military officer was an effort to defend Americans’ rights, including the First Amendment right to free speech.
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Courts does not believe the national anthem is the proper time for protests, but did say he supports players’ efforts to address racial and judicial inequality, something he called “a profoundly disturbing problem.”
“I find myself guilty of what I accused the NFL players of: My message has been lost in my manner of protest,” Courts said. “For this, I am profoundly sorry. I am also profoundly sorry for the mischaracterization of DuPont, its citizens, businesses and elected leaders as racist. That is as far from the truth as east is from west.”
Courts said he wrote a private letter to Doug Baldwin, a Seahawks wide receiver who has been vocal about racial inequalities and one of the team’s leaders in putting together Sunday’s display.
DuPont resident Jeff Soltz stepped up to the lectern during public comment to strongly criticize Courts’ actions as the mayor intently watched.
Soltz said it was “nonsensically bewildering” that Courts would enter a national debate about something that did not affect the small town.
“The mayor assumed he could somehow influence the players’ actions; he was wrong,” Soltz said. “We are a small community, and I cannot fathom how the mayor of DuPont, Washington, could somehow believe that because he might be offended by the players’ assumed actions that canceling the rally was a wise decision.
“If he did not support the team, he should have just not gone to the rally.”
The rally in support of the Seahawks will be rescheduled, Courts announced.