An open letter to Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks head coach:
The late Freddie Prinze (comedian, 1970s-era star of TV’s “Chico and the Man”) was once asked why he didn’t pick a controversial cause to use his celebrity for.
He replied to the effect that he was an entertainer, and people came to watch him to forget their problems, rather than be reminded of them. A very wise statement from a 21-year old man building his career.
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Recently we have seen other young men in their 20s using their celebrity to advance their own cause du jour. In particular, I speak of Colin Kaepernick, 49ers quarterback, now supported by Seahawk cornerback Jeremy Lane.
Other Seahawk players have indicated they also may make a collective statement against racial inequality.
It is understandable. It is their right. I get it. But it is ill-advised, considering the effect on a sport they are being paid very well to perform in.
Pete, as a coach leading the Seahawks, I would encourage you to remind these young men of several facts they may not be considering:
▪ A Magical Moment of Human Unity: Football fans of all stripes hope for a few magical hours to forget their differences, the world’s problems and sins, and get wildly, completely united behind their team. Strangers find their stadium seats, sit down next to strangers who hold opposite political and social views, are of a different nationality or race, are rich or poor, gay, straight, a different gender or region.
All of these disappear as they watch the game and scream for our team. We sit together, talk across the rows and in the pubs. We invite neighbors over to watch, people that we seldom find time to engage with any other time. When we won the Super Bowl, we would scream from our passing cars at complete strangers in their No. 12 jerseys, who were screaming back from the sidewalk.
The malignant, angry side of human nature was absent for a few happy hours.
▪ Are Fans Getting What They Paid For?: Fans pay a lot of money to help create this atmosphere, to support their team, to get their weekly Seahawk “high.” Stadium fans pay the most, perhaps, and sometimes thousands of dollars.
I paid $200 for a Seahawks jacket, because the Hawks are my team. But because some well-paid football players are willing to offend many fans and perhaps even cause fractures in the team itself, now I’m not so sure I have the same enthusiasm or desire to spend money. They have damaged the magic, the very product they should be nurturing.
Fans want the players to do one thing: Play football, lead the Twelves, help the Twelves forget their problems for a few hours, help us see how it feels to be united for a brief moment. Kaepernick and Lane are unintentionally doing the opposite, and therefore cheating the fans, the team, the game.
The fans fracture, the team fractures, and personally I feel a little more like “taking my ball and going home.”
▪ A Time For Everything: Pete Seeger once wrote a song, most famously performed by the Byrds, borrowed from the Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:1) in which it says: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”
I submit that while we all have the right to speak our minds, there is a time for it. Protesting (or displaying) at a funeral, wedding, commencement, and yes, a sporting event, are not the times for such protests.
As a nation, we have sinned against, and we have spilled our own blood for, other people. The flag represents the best of our intentions, not some inevitable bad results.
I would hope Kaepernick, Lane and others see this and find a better, more proper venue to express themselves, and let the flag be a neutral point we can all honor as a symbol of the best intentions of very flawed humans. I am not a big flag-waver, but I respect and will stand for those who are.
Paul Mitchell is a lifelong Tacoma resident, a retired insurance agent and currently works as guest services coordinator at a Tacoma museum. This is a version of the letter he sent to Pete Carroll, with minor News Tribune editing.