EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J The NFL so admires the calculated, inclusionary ways Doug Baldwin is pushing for social and racial equality and criminal-justice reform, its commissioner sought him out to talk more about it.
Roger Goodell asked the Seahawks wide receiver this past week if he could meet with Baldwin on Saturday, while Seattle was in the New York City area near league headquarters to play the Giants on Sunday.
Goodell earlier in the week co-signed a letter Baldwin wrote to Congress backing a criminal-justice reform bill. Baldwin asked him to do that, to get the league from its top behind his initiatives he started in 2016 with state attorneys general and police officials.
Saturday, Goodell came to the Seahawks’ team hotel in Jersey City to meet with Baldwin.
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What did Baldwin learn?
"Just the understanding that the league is sincere," Baldwin told me Sunday night as we walked across the field at MetLife Stadium after sparking Seattle’s 24-7 win over New York. "That the act to affect change in society is genuine" with the league’s players.
Baldwin looked and sounded satisfied and indeed appreciative at the Goodell’s interest.
The league held a meeting with 11 team owners, 13 players and the head of the players’ union last week in New York. The tone from that meeting was one of progressing past the national controversy over players sitting and kneeling during national anthems before games this season in protests for equality to efforts league-wide, including by the NFL itself, to join in supporting the cause.
But Sunday, Michael Bennett and his fellow Seahawks defensive linemen didn’t move past sitting during the anthem.
Bennett and seven teammates, including fellow Pro Bowl end Cliff Avril, who is on injured reserve—sat on the bench, as Bennett had said last week he would continue to do.
Bennett said last week he will continue to sit until unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began this movement by kneeling during anthems last year while with the San Francisco 49ers, signs with an NFL team.
Asked by New York media following Sunday’s game if he’s going to continue to sit until Kaepernick gets signed, Bennett said: "It’s always been broader than that. It’s always been about justice and discrimination in America. Police brutality. Women’s rights. All those different issues. Clean water in Flint, Michigan. Just issues that’s pertaining to America that we need to pay attention to."
Asked if he heard anything that came out of last week’s NFL meeting on social issues that maybe changed his mind or outlook on protesting, Bennett said: "I didn’t hear anything. I heard my daughter crying the other night, that was about it."