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Carroll speaks at length about protest: ‘It’s not about the flag, or law enforcement’

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: Head Coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks talks to Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 after committing a foul against the Tennessee Titians at Nissan Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Shaban Athuman/Getty Images)

RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called for more empathy on Monday, saying he was proud of the way the Seahawks handled their protest before their loss to the Titans and driving home that it wasn’t pointed at the American flag or law-enforcement.

“It’s hard for everybody to see everybody’s view, because we don’t have the skills that empathy calls for to understand somebody has something to say,” Carroll said. “Empathy would call on us to listen and to not pass judgment. Whether or not you want to demonstrate compassion by trying to help their situation – that’s what’s at stake right here.”

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In extended remarks at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Carroll said he made an effort to make players on both sides feel heard before the team eventually decided to stay in the locker room during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality in the U.S. and President Donald Trump’s remarks over the weekend that players who kneel during the anthem should be fired.

“I hugged them, talked to them, and expressed that I appreciate where they’re coming from and what they feel, with no other thought than to accept them – exactly what I’m talking about,” he said. “Realizing they had every right in the world to feel the way they feel, and they had a choice to make, and they had a choice to do what they wanted to do and they decided to stay with the team. And that was a hard decision for some guys.”

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Carroll said he believed the players have every right to protest, and said he dislikes the argument that athletes should remain silent.

“Because you’re a football player, you should be grateful and shut up?” Carroll said. “That’s not what’s going on there. We’re talking about what’s happening on the other side of the world, and what’s going on around us, to try to share that experience so others can come to understand, ‘Oh, that’s why you’re protesting, oh that’s why you’ve been talking about this for hundreds of years.'”

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Carroll said he wasn’t sure what the Seahawks would do in terms of protesting next weekend, saying they were still busy trying to get through game film of Sunday’s 33-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Here are Carroll’s full remarks Monday:

I understand that there are different points of view here, and I think this is a fascinating chance for us understand that there’s differences in how we view things. These are protests, and they’re statements of feelings and expressions of freedom of speech that can be taken however you want to take it. It’s hard for everybody to see everybody’s view, because we don’t have the skills that empathy calls for to understand somebody has something to say. Empathy would call on us to listen and to not pass judgment. Whether or not you want to demonstrate compassion by trying to help their situation – that’s what’s at stake right here.

I don’t think it’s been so directed at just the flag, or just law enforcement, or other thoughts. That’s not at all what the players are expressing. They’re expressing the freedom of speech and expression, and they have a lot to say, and they’re skilled at what they want to say and what they stand for.

I’d like to say to that our players are in a very fortunate situation. It has nothing to do with how much money they make. They’re in a position where they can speak out, and they can hopefully hopefully create change and get their points of view out there that are designed to help people. This isn’t about the kind of salaries they make. They’re very fortunate to be where they are, and they know it, and have to courage to stand up and speak out. And that’s not being recognized as much as we would like. It’s more polarized and that. So, we understand why people are upset about it, but it is not about denigration of the flag or our country or anything that that stands for. It’s not about that at all. It’s about trying to get your feelings out and your ideas across. Protest – just by the nature of the word – not everybody’s going to agree, and that’s why it’s a protest. So, I think it’s extraordinary that this has happened and it’s a moment that we can all learn what we want to learn out of this, but I hope we l
earn empathy, and to listen, and to understand what somebody else feels instead of passing judgment. It doesn’t mean you’re going to agree, and that’s OK. That’s OK. And hopefully, like I said, the compassion part of it will come about in proper manner, and there will be action taken, and there will be movement made and we will come to understand more. So, I think it’s hard. It’s hard, but it’s good.

Directly what I did is I hugged them, talked to them, and expressed that I appreciate where they’re coming from and what they feel, with no other thought than to accept them – exactly what I’m talking about. Realizing they had every right in the world to feel the way they feel, and they had a choice to make, and they had a choice to do what they wanted to do and they decided to stay with the team. And that was a hard decision for some guys. I totally understand that. One of the things that our players have that a lot of the players don’t have in the outside world is that they know what it is to be on a team, and they know what it is to work for common cause, and to make the sacrifices that are (called for) in a team setting. Our guys are skilled at that understand and it’s important to them. And so they know that there’s times when you’re acting for the good of the group, rather than what is fit for you personally. And that’s about the sacrifice that you make for the good of the group. And that’s what that wa
s about, and I think it was powerful in that probably more so an almost anything, that they were willing to do that. And so, I loved them up and hugged them up and so, we’re grateful for them and their perspective.

Q: Was there concern that some players would go out alone?

A: To some extent, yes, yeah, that’s why there was a long discussion and a lot of conversation and a lot of emotions scared. Did you ask if I was worried about it? No, I was just concerned for their own being. I wanted to make them feel connected to what was going on, in the way that they maybe had to make the sacrifice of their though. And that’s a powerful statement, you know, it’s a powerful statement. Maybe more so for those guys than the majority of the guys that felt a different way.

Q: What were you concerns about keeping the team bonded?

A: It wasn’t about that. I didn’t have any concerns about keeping the team bonded. It was, what would be the response and where would it go. I was concerned because I didn’t know – we had a lot to do on that weekend, we had a big game to be played and all that and we have a very short amount of time, we have not very many opportunities to really discuss it and really not enough time to really lay it all out over a long period of time where you can make a really long-term, solid decision. We had a short time to do it and pressed with that and I was concerned with all that. But I also knew that everybody else was involved with it as well, and other teams would handle it in their way – it was a relative issue. So we just had to figure our way through it.

Q: Concerns about losing viewers/fans?

A: I don’t know. I don’t know how that will play out. Right now its’ about doing the right thing. Everybody loves this game and we love to play it and sports has always been the uniter. It’s never been the divider, it’s been the uniter. And to make it something other than that I think is a terrible mistake, because it’s an institution in our culture and in others around the world that’s so powerful, and so important. It demonstrates all of the beautiful things about culture, and all of the beautiful things about bringing people together from different background and all. Rallying for common goals and all that, and I can’t imagine why anybody would want to disrupt that.

It’s unique, because the subject matter is unique. We’ve been in these discussions before here, and by design, we delved into the topics a long time ago. And in that I’m practicing, practicing how to get into discussions of different issues and things like that because it gives us a chance to find out who we are as individuals, as we belong to a team and I think it’s really important that we do that. So, this is an extension of those meetings in the past. The crunch of time was an issue. There wasn’t much time, and so you could feel that sense, so you could feel that sense of urgency that I wish we didn’t have to deal with. We needed to take all the time we needed, but we weren’t afforded that, so you’ve got to deal with what you’ve got.

Just in our own world right here, our players have a lot to say, they have a lot to offer, and it’s because they’re so concerned, and care so much, and it’s so important. Not everybody understands that. Not everybody understands the inequalities that other people see. Because of that – often, just because you see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. I think that’s a really important fact, because I think a lot of people are speaking about things and making reference to stuff because they don’t understand why people are willing to protest, or willing to stand up and speak out. I don’t think they recognize the courage that that takes, or what they may be jeopardizing. I think this is such an important moment, and I don’t think we should miss it. I think we need to go into it further, and we need new skills, we need new empathy skills. We need it. And, hopefully, maybe something will come about, maybe we’ll find some new teachings and we’ll come to understand how to move forward. It’s an exciting potential. I hope it happens.

I think it’s relative and everybody had to handle it the way they did – I don’t know. Mike called me in the morning and wanted to know what we were doing, and I told him. He said great and they were going to do the same thing and all that. So, I don’t know if they were going to do the same thing before that phone call or after – I don’t know that. I know that some of our players had been talking to one another and they’d shared some ideas.

Q: What were they doing in the locker room?

A: We were just getting fired up. Music was playing and we were getting fired up – it was just a normal, it was just a few minutes longer than a normal prelim.

Q: Did Carroll talk the players into this?

A: No, not at any point. I never even thought of doing that. I was just grateful that they decided to do what they wanted to do because it was important to be together, I think. But it was also important to feel like you feel too, but that’s the way it went and it went quite well.

Q: Would Carroll like to return to the days when the teams stayed in the locker room during the anthem?

A: I don’t think it’s important that we return to that. I don’t have any problem with that. What we have learned is that there’s a window of opportunity there to make an expression – that’s what’s occurred. We didn’t know that before, but it happened, and it’s happened historically at times. But it’s been brought to the front of the league, and other leagues I would think as well – other sports and all of that.

Q: What does this say about the state of the Seahawks’ locker room?

A: I think it’s a wonderful statement of being part of something, and being willing to listen to the other side, and to be empathetic and make choices based on you want to support those others. It’s huge. That’s a huge statement. It might be one of the most powerful statements, that people are willing to listen to the other side and then act accordingly, as opposed to not listening, and not hearing. I think it’s hugely important. If we’re going to move forward, we have to listen to the messaging that’s being screamed at us about inequality. We have to listen. It has nothing to do with a lot of other stuff – it’s just listening and finding a way to understand, and then hopefully going to compassion, and being willing to do something about it.

Q: These issues happen to the players away from the field – do you think that part of it’s being missed?

A: That’s come through loud and clear. You’re not a football player wearing your uniform everywhere you go. You’re a regular citizen in the community. And that’s where, in football, the inequalities don’t demonstrate themselves. It’s when you go into normal-life settings. And that’s why it’s so powerful, that we share what that feels like. We share what it feels like to be in another group, and what their world is like, and what their day-to-day and their existence is. I don’t think that’s understood very well. That’s where we don’t understand inequalities. “Because you’re a football player, you should be grateful and shut up.” That’s not what’s going on there. We’re talking about what’s happening on the other side of the world, and what’s going on around us, to try to share that experience so others can come to understand: ‘Oh, that’s why you’re protesting, oh that’s why you’ve been talking about this for hundreds of years.’ We hear it loud and clear, and we have great respect for what everyone goes through because of that. It is the topic.

Q: Does this open doors for what players can do after football, such as holding office?

A: Without question. Our guys are already active, and they’re already finding themselves in positions and discussions and conversations with people that they might not come across otherwise. And their willingness is where they’re seeing the opportunity and they’re also realizing that it takes courage to go ahead and take these steps towards being more active in the community, and they’re willing. I’m sure all teams have great examples of that – we certainly do here.

Q: Is there a decision about what to do going forward?

A: We’re just trying to get through the film right now, figure out who’s got a sprained ankle or not.