There’s been plenty of reasons to applaud Russell Wilson.
Let’s add another.
In two-plus seasons he’s gone beyond just being the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. After having grown into the face of the franchise, he’s now serving as the conscience of it.
A quarterback’s job is to lead a team to wins. Minimum expectation.
That Wilson has been so charitable, responsible, and a laudable citizen has been a bonus.
Thursday, though, as a senior editor and columnist for Derek Jeter’s new online media platform, The Players Tribune, he took a strong stand against the kinds of domestic violence incidents that have tainted the image of the National Football League.
Maybe it seems like an easy stand against indefensible behavior.
But some fans and some teams prefer their quarterbacks to be nonpolitical and noncontroversial.
Yeah, and they used to always like them tall and white, too. But times have changed, and the NFL needs to, as well.
Wilson has come off as a little Teflon at times. He’s been so cautious, in fact, as to seem robotic or over-reliant on the few clichés who have served as his best friends.
He not only sheds that approach with his column, but even addresses that posture.
“I’ve tended to avoid controversial topics throughout my career, but in my first piece for The Players’ Tribune, I wanted to be open and address something that’s important, timely and relevant,” he wrote. “I’ve been silent on the issue for too long, falling back on the ‘I can’t speak to someone else’s personal life’ excuse. But victims need physical, emotional and financial support and care, and the resources to get away from their abusers. Abusers, you need to get help — you can change.”
Wilson made a surprising revelation, that he used to be a bully as a little kid. He had issues with anger, which he helped correct through his faith.
Now, in light of recent league-wide headlines on the topic of domestic abuse, Wilson is raising his voice.
“Recent incidents of domestic violence have forced The League, its fans and the players to take a hard look into our collective conscience,” he wrote. “To be honest, many NFL players are reluctant to address such a sensitive issue. How do you fix a problem so big and complex? How do you speak about something so damaging and painful to families?”
He linked to a Hartford Courant report, and wrote, “Every day, up to 10,000 Americans are turned away from shelters due to lack of resources.”
To aid those victims, Wilson invited fans to examine his Why Not You Foundation? where his first initiative is to promote the Pass the Peace program to support victims of domestic violence.
“I ask that you make a $2 donation or more to The National Domestic Violence Hotline. It couldn’t be easier. Simply text WNYPassThePeace to 41444 to make your contribution. For more information, please visit www.whynotyou
Last month, Wilson was asked about being a role model, and he gave an equivocal response. “I try to influence as many kids as I can and try to get involved as much as I can in the community and all that and be a great teammate,” he answered. “I’m not perfect by any means … but I try to put my best foot forward and try to change the world in some way every day and try to make an effect on somebody and help somebody every day.”
The league and some teams have been inexcusably slow to address this nasty issue.
But coach Pete Carroll on Thursday strongly supported Wilson’s comments and praised his willingness to take the lead in an important cause.
“I’m really proud of him,” Carroll said. “I think he’s involved himself in a very critical issue and maybe he can elevate awareness. I think his statements were very well thought out and clear. … I think it fits him very well. I’m hoping it has great impact and people will pick up on it and add to it. We’ll support him in every way.”
There is no one in this region who has greater visibility nor greater opportunity to shape the level of expectations for positive behavior than Russell Wilson.
He has earned that platform by his play and his actions. And now he’s using it for the betterment of his community.
It’s not part of his job description, but that only makes this high-profile stance all the more impactful.