RENTON Real life is intersecting with the Seahawks’ season opener this weekend.
And real life is holding considerable sway among the players in the locker room.
To some it may be blasphemous to write in this space on the eve of America getting its insatiable thirst for its most popular sport quenched again with the NFL’s season-kickoff game -- Carolina at Denver: The Seahawks are discussing something far more impacting and, ultimately, important in our society than football.
More than any other team outside San Francisco, Seattle’s and specifically its vocal, opinionated, veteran core are discussing whether to join in the racial-inequality protests 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started last month and Seattle defensive back Jeremy Lane joined before a preseason game last week – and if they do join in, how to do it.
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Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner says the Seahawks might make some kind of statement en masse.
"Anything that we are going to do is not going to be individually. It’s going to be as a team," Wagner said.
"Honestly, as far as sitting for that, I don’t know what that really does. I think if we are going to do something it has to be more, because that’s not going to change people that are doing the wrongs, that are doing the killings.
"I do appreciate it, because it has definitely opened up the conversations. But there is just so much more to be done."
Lane said Monday he will sit again during the National Anthem when it’s sung on Sunday, Sept. 11, at CenturyLink Field just before the Seahawks host Miami.
Asked if he’s considered joining Lane in his protest, Seahawks top wide receiver Doug Baldwin said: "I have.
"I want to make sure I get all of my ducks in a row before I do something."
Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks using hijacked commercial airliners as bombs on New York and Washington, D.C. The September 11th attacked killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 others, the most catastrophic attack on American soil in U.S. history.
Baldwin was asked if 9-11’s anniversary being Sunday should be a consideration for any NFL player considering a protest during the National Anthem that day.
His answer was one of the most thoughtful and balanced you’ll get in professional sports.
"Absolutely," Baldwin said.
"I think that anybody should be thinking about that -- even if it wasn’t September 11th. The point of the protest is to get people to think. And I think it’s very ironic to me that 15 years ago, September 11th, 2001, one of the most devastating times in U.S. history, after that day we were probably the most unified that we’ve ever been. And today, we struggle to see the unity.
"It’s very ironic to me that this date is coming up. It’s going to be a special day, a very significant day. But at the same time, I think I’m looking forward to the many changes that we can make in this country to make better changes in our country."
Baldwin has been active on social media in recent weeks commenting on the need for social change.
"I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback," he said. "Obviously, there is some negative push-back, as well. But, you know, a lot of positive feedback from everybody that I’ve been speaking to."
That includes Kaepernick.
Baldwin said he’s talked "extensively" in the last couple weeks to the Niners QB. Baldwin said he reached out to Kaepernick for those "very good" conversations.
Kaepernick is close to former Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, also a friend of Baldwin’s. Lockette was on San Francisco’s practice squad in 2012.
Monday, Baldwin posted on his Facebook account a response to his comments on social change and protests during anthems from a friend. The friend served in one of the U.S. Army’s elite combat units.
Baldwin’s father, Doug Sr., has been a police officer in Pensacola, Florida, and a homeland security official.
The younger Doug became a National Honor Society member. He then graduated from Stanford before joining the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2011.
Now Baldwin is perhaps the most respected leader in the Seahawks’ locker room -- and on the field. The $46 million wide receiver co-led the NFL with a Seattle-record 14 touchdown catches last season.
"My grandfather, being in the military, it home for me, as well," Baldwin said of Kaepernick’s and Lane’s protests during anthems. "You know, specifically, it’s the veterans. That’s more heartening to me than anything. It is the veterans that have reached out and said, you know, that’s what they fought for. That’s what they sacrificed their lives for, was to give people back home -- under the flag, under this country -- the opportunity to stand up or say what they believe in. It was very heartening to hear that and that response from veterans.
"The majority of the people that contacted me were veterans."
Asked if he had any opinion on making any kind of statement like Kaepernick’s or Lane’s this Sunday, Baldwin shook his head.
"Not yet," he said. "I’m still thinking it through."
Another issue here is how realistic it may or may not be that professional athletes can cause that much-needed change through what they do on the field before, during or after sporting events.
"I don’t know how realistic it is," Baldwin said.
"The point is to bring attention and awareness to your protest. To bring attention to what’s going on. And that’s what I think the issue is here. We are missing the message, in terms of, it’s not necessarily about the messenger. It’s not about the protest itself."
"It’s different in our locker room. We kind of give each other a lot of slack. Whatever decisions you make, we understand that you are all human beings. Some of us might not agree. Some of us will agree. But at the same time we give each other a lot of slack in our locker room."
"Honestly, I’ve prayed a lot about it...to try to get the right direction on this."