For those who want their athletes to "stick to sports," who criticize outspoken, socially conscious NFL players to "do something more than talk," this one's for you.
Doug Baldwin is one of four finalists for the 2018 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award.
The Seahawks' top wide receiver and social activist with more than just words joins Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant (who began his NBA career with the Seattle SuperSonics) and WWE star John Cena as finalists for the award honoring "their commitment and positive impact in their communities."
Baldwin is up for the award to be handed out July 17 in Los Angeles at the fourth annual Sports Humanitarian Awards on ESPN.
The Stanford graduate and son of a career law-enforcement officer in Florida continues to make a difference by doing. He is pushing local, state and national officials for changes in police officers' use of deadly force.
Baldwin has spent the last two years on the cause, his response to police shootings of African-Americans across the country. He spent months and years testifying at the State Capitol in Olympia. He's met with police groups, learning departments need more money to change officers' training. He's met with Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson. He's listened. And he's asserted the need for change in police use of force and more emphasis on deescalation of encounters with citizens.
“I’ve spent the last year and a half, two years now working on things in our communities, with the intent of bridging the gap between law enforcement and our communities,” Baldwin said in December, at a press conference days before a key, late-season game at Jacksonville. “As a human I feel extremely compelled to use my platform and my influence in whatever way for the benefit (of all), and not just the benefit for myself.
“I’ve spent countless hours meeting with community leaders, public officials, members of our law-enforcement community, politicians, technology companies and a number of other groups that had any type or form in this topic. And all these issues spread into communities across our country (but) I decided to focus my energies right here in the state of Washington in which I live, in an attempt to create a model for similar efforts across the country.
“So here in Washington state I’ve supported efforts to provide our law-enforcement officers the training and resources required to meet their changing and demanding needs of their job. In doing so I feel the community and law enforcement relationship will greatly benefit from renewed responsibility and accountability. So today I want to announce my public and financial support for Initiative 940.”
Initiative 940 is the Washington measure that would require law enforcement to receive violence deescalation, mental-health, and first-aid training. It would provide first-aid training and increased ability for officers to administer first aid. It would change standards for use of deadly force, adding a “good faith” standard and independent investigation.
Baldwin has told the story of going to speak at a dinner for SWAT officers last November and that as he began his remarks he felt the officers in attendance wanted to know why he was even there. After Baldwin spoke, he said the officers came to understand he is not “anti police” but instead is advocating to bridge the gap between law enforcement and its citizens who may or may not trust its officers.
Baldwin is 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.
Last fall, Baldwin wrote a letter that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell co-signed to the Senate Judiciary Committee considering legislation on criminal justice reform.