During a Tuesday news conference, Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin was of course asked about his teammate, Michael Bennett, and Bennett’s decision to sit during the national anthem.
And he made a salient point, one that’s rarely mentioned: why is it that some of the same people who condemn Bennett, and before him, Colin Kaepernick, are ones Baldwin sees in the stands at games, not standing at attention while the song is being played or performed?
“Whether you agree with it or not, that’s irrelevant. Individuals have a right to freedom of speech. I mean … ,” Baldwin paused here, and seemed to consider how to say what he wanted to say. “We want to talk about somebody taking a stand for something that’s important. Taking a stand, taking a seat, for something they deem important.
“Inequality in our country, injustice in our country – we’re sitting here having a conversation about whether or not it’s important that a guy stands for the national anthem or sits when the topic is inequality or injustice, but yet I look in the stands at some of our games, both home and away, and I see people that are drunk with their hats still on, yelling. How come you guys aren’t talking to them? How come there’s not a discussion about them? This guy is taking a reasonable and peaceful approach to something that – I mean, I don’t know who doesn’t think is (vitally) important to our society and the health and wellness of our communities, but yet we’re not talking about people who are in the stands, drunk during the national anthem with their hats still on, yelling at players, cussing during the national anthem, we’re not talking about that.
“I know you guys are reporters and you’ve got to make a story about something but I just think we’re taking it too far.”
Anyone who’s been at an NFL game – really, any sporting event – knows what Baldwin is talking about. Fans don’t stop walking through the concourses, concession stands don’t pause sales, not everyone who’s talking is singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” while it is being played or performed.
How is that different from Bennett? In a lot of ways, isn’t it worse? Bennett eloquently stated his reasons for protesting to Yahoo Sports’ Jordan Schultz this week, and has clear, principled reasons for why he’s doing what he’s doing. What kind of principled stand is it to make a beer-and-chicken fingers run while the anthem is playing?
Baldwin said he’s considering joining Bennett, and Seattle players will discuss how to support their teammate.
“We are going to have a conversation here shortly and again, we try to do things as a team and as a family,” Baldwin said. “We will see how we can support Mike in this situation … We operate as a family. We support our guys in whatever they want to do, whatever endeavors they set out to accomplish or achieve. And Mike has always been one of those leaders in our locker room. We trust him. Again, he is a highly highly intelligent individual who didn’t just make a decision off the cuff. This is a decision, I know that knowing Mike, he has taken a lot of time and pride in making. So as a family within this organization we fully support what he has done.”