The Entire Seattle Seahawks Team Could Be Protesting the National Anthem

There are times in modern history when things seem to be happening at a clip never before seen, with intensity that leaves many questioning when the fight began and why it only seems to be happening today, in the here and now. Most would argue that it’s technology’s presence in the way we communicate that is the key determinant in what makes today’s social and political movements as vociferous as they are. As Will Smith famously said of instances of racism and police brutality in American society, “racism isn’t getting worse. It’s getting filmed.” Similarly, #BlackLivesMatter and #OscarsSoWhite, two very different movements which have led to tangible change thanks in large part to widespread social media campaigning, have allowed citizens to not only support but also partake in movements that have implications for political, social, racial, and civil change on a massive scale. And the world of sports is no different.

Colin Kaepernick has become a household name in recent weeks. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback made headlines for opting to sit out and kneel during the national anthem at preseason and regular season games. Of mixed Black and White race, Kaepernick voiced his frustration with what he sees as an abortion of justice in the United States as it pertains to people of color, and his decision to remove himself from partaking in the singing of “the Star Spangled Banner” set of a firestorm of heated debate on social media and elsewhere. Many are calling his actions unpatriotic and disrespectful to the American flag, while supporters (including the massive #VeteransForKaepernick Twitter movement) argue that there is a dire need for a serious conversation about what racism looks like in 2016, and that his symbolic gesture is doing its part to galvanize such a discussion.

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But Kaepernick is far from the only athlete to have undertaken similar protests. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a former NBA player who in 1996 would not stand for the national anthem, was recently interviewed by Nation and says he “stands with Kaepernick 1000 percent.” He also made the statement that “For me, being a Muslim, I don’t believe in giving my allegiance to anyone or anything but God,” adding ” the flag and the anthem are symbols that reflect the character of a nation and if it’s supposed to represent freedom and equality and justice for all, and I don’t see where that’s being represented.” In 2014, Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters sat out the national anthem, citing his Muslim Faith. Also in 2014, LeBron James and others in the NBA wore shirts emblazoned with the phrase “I Can’t Breathe,” referring to the statement Eric Garner made before being killed by a fatal choke hold at the hands of a police officer. And, as Heads may have seen in an interview with Killer Mike, famed Olympian Tommie Smith made history when he raised his Black fist in solidarity with his brothers and sisters fighting oppression back in his native U.S.

But it isn’t just athletes from our collective past who have stood up for the same ideals as Kaepernick; he himself has already inspired similar gestures from American soccer star Megan Rapinoe and volleyball players at West Virginia Tech. Outside of sports, artists including J. Cole and Trey Songs have been seen performing in Kaepernick jerseys in a sign of solidarity. And now, there are reports that an entire team in the NFL is considering following in Colin’s steps.

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“Seahawks’ Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner considering expanding national-anthem protest,” reads a September 7 report from the Seattle Times. In the report, Seattle Seahawks receiver Baldwin and linebacker Wagner are quoted in statements that suggest the two are considering joining cornerback Jeremy Lane, who “said he plans to continue to sit during the national anthem this season.” Wagner addressed the notion of the entire team taking part in the action, something that would be of historic proportions not seen since the (formerly) St. Louis Rams took collective action to protest police violence in neighboring Ferguson. As Bob Condotta writes, “While Wagner said he didn’t know if he would sit down during the anthem he said ‘anything we want to do, it’s not going to be individual. It’s going to be a team thing. That’s what the world needs to see. The world needs to see people coming together versus being individuals.'”

If such an effort is to be realized, reportedly at the Seahawks’ season opener on Sunday (September 11), it seems to have the support of coach Pete Carroll who, according to Condotta, “said he has talked to Lane and that the team is fine with whatever he decides to do.” Carroll is quoted as having said of Lane “[h]e’s pretty clear on what he did and what he was trying to express and I think it is very simple and so we’ll leave that up to him.” As for Baldwin, a series of recent Tweets of his, including one which said “we honor those who fight for our right to freedom of speech and then condemn those who exercise that right?,” points to his desire to join Lane, as well (although, as Condotta writes, “Baldwin reiterated he had not made any decision”). He himself is a veteran, and in that capacity, his decision to sit out during the national anthem speaks volumes about the complexity in the relationship between the American flag and those who fight for what it represents.

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Just minutes ago today (September 8), Baldwin tweeted “to express a desire to bring people together, our team will honor the country and flag in a pregame demonstration of unity,” a statement that leaves much room for interpretation. Whether a “pregame demonstration of unity” means standing for the national anthem is unclear, but his statement is indicative that, come Sunday, there will likely be a historic moment that could very well define political activism for generations.