Doug Baldwin does not like, at all, the NFL's new policy on conduct during the national anthem at games.
The Seahawks' wide receiver likes Donald Trump even less.
Baldwin responded Thursday to President Trump's comments earlier in the day that protesting NFL players may not belong in this country.
"He's an idiot, plain and simple," Baldwin said following Seattle's third practice of offseason organized team activities.
On Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced owners had approved a new policy mandating all league personnel who are on the field during the anthem at games to stand and respect it. The policy gives Goodell the power to discipline as he sees fit any player or league personnel that sit, kneel or otherwise protest or make a statement or gesture during the anthem, as Michael Bennett and up to eight of his Seahawks teammates did at games last season.
The policy also says players can opt to stay in their locker rooms during the anthem.
Trump said on Fox News Channel Thursday morning that while he supports the NFL's anthem policy, he did not like the part that permits players to stay off the field during the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" at stadiums.
"I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms,” Trump told the show FOX and Friends. “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem.”
Asked about what Trump said, Baldwin said at Seahawks' headquarters in Renton: "He’s an idiot, plain and simple.
"I mean, listen, I respect the man because he’s a human being first and foremost, but he’s just being more divisive, which is not surprising. It is what it is. But for him to say that anybody who doesn’t follow his viewpoints or his constituents’ viewpoints should be kicked out of the country, it’s not very empathetic. It’s not very American-like, actually. It’s not very patriotic. It’s not what this country was founded upon.
"It’s kind of ironic of me that the President of the United States is contradicting what our country is really built on."
Baldwin and coach Pete Carroll said they liked the way the Seahawks in particular and NFL players in general were progressing on their social activism and getting the league to hear them.
Now this, a unilateral policy that scrambles everything, that may prove to be more divisive than unifying.
"Absolutely," Baldwin said.
"I think the NFL really missed it this time."
Baldwin, a native of Florida, is a Stanford graduate. He is the son of a career law-enforcement officer. He is an outspoken advocate for police reform who has met with police from around Washington state and with state attorney general Bob Ferguson.
Baldwin is also a member of the Players Coalition, recently founded by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and consisting of what Baldwin says is about a dozen core members. Baldwin said in December he wasn’t sure what to make of the league’s plan to the coalition to have $89 million of NFL money go to players’ social causes, including his own push to change how law enforcement uses force in our country.
Baldwin was asked Thursday what he thought would have been a reasonable solution for the NFL's anthem issue.
“Honestly, I don’t know," he said. "I know what they did was not it.
"If you’re asking my opinion, I think that in conjunction with the NFL the way that things were going, I felt on the Players Coalition side of things we were coming to an amicable agreement and relationship and working toward initiatives and causes that we wanted to see as players addressed, I thought that you would see the demonstrations and the issues within the NFL dissipate. But again, when you stoke the fire and inflame a gap that was really dissipating at the time, diffusing, you cause more problems. That’s why I say I think the NFL missed it.”
Baldwin called the announcement Wednesday of the new anthem policy "an emotional hit, first and foremost."
"I can't lie that it was emotional for me yesterday to read Roger Goodell's statement. Specifically the part where he says it was disappointing that our (players') narratives had been misunderstood, that our players were unpatriotic, which he stated, was completely false," Baldwin said. "But in the same breath, in his next statement, saying everyone will stand and respect the flag, as if what we were doing before was disrespectful.
"Again, it pulls on the heartstrings. The demonstrations, the reason why we were having the conversations we were having, was because there was a loss of life. It was never about disrespecting the flag, or the military, or anything in that regard. I was about the loss of life in a particular community. There was frustration. Enough is enough.
"Athletes and celebrities who have a platform to speak up for those who don't have a platform, and were willing to use it to do just that. It pulls on the heartstrings. It's a challenge. It's frustrating. Football has always been my release and I'm thankful I can come out here with my teammates every day and demonstrate what unity should be about
"I wish our president could come and see what it takes to unify a team, a nation and a group of people coming together.”
Baldwin said no anthem policy, no words from Trump, will change what players are doing to seek changes in society.
"It doesn’t impact anything that we’re doing off the field as players," he said. "Of course, it’s been documented what the players’ coalition is doing, what players around the league have been doing in terms of social justice initiatives and trying to impact the communities that they represent, and that represent them in a positive in a light. That’s not going to change, regardless of what the NFL implements or what our president says.
"We’re still working towards solving the lack of equity in the communities that we’ve come from and that we want to see the changes in. that’s not gonna change."
Baldwin, Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson said whatever the Seahawks do for the first preseason game Aug. 9 against Indianapolis at CenturyLink Field, they will do it united. So don't expect four protesting Seahawks to stay in the locker room while the rest of the team is on the field standing during the anthem that night.
But the entire team may not just stay in its locker room, either—though that what the Seahawks and Titans did last September before their game in Nashville. That was two days after Trump ripped an NFL player who protests as a "son of a ***ch."
What's a protest that no one can see?
"Give us a chance, we’ll put this together in a really good way and we’ll represent our fans," said Carroll, who held team meetings the day into the night at the Seahawks' hotel in Nashville before that game at Tennessee, then formed a players' consensus on what they did that September Sunday.
"This place is going to stand up. Our guys will continue to stand up and do what we need to do.
"But football is football," Carroll said. "I like to keep it football as much as possible and make it fun and the kind of game that we love. But we need to deal with the rest of it and deal with it in a really good manner. And I think, I’m saying again, that we have to listen better."
Baldwin acknowledged staying in the locker room under the NFL's new anthem policy defeats the purpose of protesting for social change, hides the "why" of sitting or kneeling during the anthem in the first place.
"It does," he said, "because, unlike our current policy, we’re not trying to be inflammatory in regards to the national anthem or to disrespect our flag.
"Again, this was about trying to recognize there are issues in our community where there has been loss of life at the hands of people who … there’s loss of life—I shouldn’t have to qualify it—there’s been loss of life. So, as players we’re more cognitively aware we’re not trying to be inflammatory toward our country or patriotism, but, of course, paid patriotism isn’t patriotism. That’s not the definition."
As for what the Seahawks will do before games in 2018, Baldwin said: "We’ll have conversations, and it’s still yet to be seen."
Baldwin hears those who believe the NFL, as a private, for-profit business, can set whatever regulations it wants regarding employee conduct at the workplace, in this case players in stadiums.
And he has an answer for that.
Asked if it was illegitimate of the league to act in the interest of its bottom line—protecting its television ratings, its advertisers and, thus, its revenues—Baldwin said: "Absolutely not. And I want to clarify that. I want to make sure that is well understood: I am not saying that as a business you don't have the right or the power, the control to do what they did. I firmly understand that, that that's how we live in a capitalistic system.
"However, there is a difference between what you can do and what you should do.
"Again, I think the NFL missed it on what they should do, as it pertains to this topic."