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Carroll says protests during anthem ‘took a toll,’ particularly during Titans game

RENTON, Wash. – Pete Carroll admitted Tuesday that the decision by some members of the Seattle Seahawks to protest racial inequality during the national anthem before the team’s games was a distraction this season.

Carroll was much more candid on the subject than he had been previously as he addressed it during his season-ending press conference at the VMAC, saying he believed the protest had a particular impact on the Seahawks’ 33-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 3.

That was the week both the Seahawks and Titans elected to stay in their respective locker rooms during the anthem, as protests erupted around the NFL after President Donald Trump said players who kneel during the anthem should be “fired.”

“I think it had an effect in that game that week in Tennessee,” Carroll said. “I think it had an effect on a lot of teams and players. It was an extraordinarily heated time. That was a different amount of emotional output that occurred before the game, and it looked like it, the way we played. It looked like it took its toll.”

Carroll said after the Seahawks decided what they wanted to do that day, the Titans called and asked what the plan was. When the Seahawks said they were going to stay in the locker room, Tennessee decided to follow suit.

Carroll and some of the players gave national interviews in the week leading up to the game, with Carroll saying he wished he could talk to Trump, urging the President to be more empathetic.

“We had gone through the whole process and done what we did, what we needed to do,” Carroll said. “We couldn’t avoid it. We had to face it, and we had to deal with it.”

An incident involving defensive end Michael Bennett and the Las Vegas police in late August. Bennett said police threw him to the ground, put a gun to his head and threatened to “blow his head off” after a false report of gunshots in the area.

Carroll said that incident hit home for some on the team, as well as many in the community and fan base.

“They never really saw the situation until they saw it with somebody they really cared about,” Carroll said. “And they cared about Mike, and they cared that Mike was on the ground with a gun to his head or whatever it was that took place, and he was an innocent bystander. How could that not have an impact? It did have an enormous impact on Mike, in particular.

“Well, he’s a big personality around here. So, he had to deal with it, and he worked as he could to try to put it to rest and all of that. We’re so connected that we feel each other’s ups and downs and ins and outs and all that.”

Carroll said he took the issue “very personally,” but that as the season wore on, he found that players “didn’t want to stay on the topic” anymore.

“It was too draining, and it was too deep,” Carroll said. “I hope during the offseason guys can come back around and find their truths and what they want to work at and learn and grow with. But, it was draining. It’s a real-life discussion that we’re talking about here, when we’re talking about equality and justice.

“There’s real-life stuff here that needs to be talked about and needs to be connected with.”

Though some NFL owners were against the protests – most notably Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones - Carroll said Paul Allen was on board with team’s protests.

“We did communicate with Paul, and he was very supportive throughout,” Carroll said. “It’s a very liberal area, and he grew up and lived here and he is this area. There’s a lot going on in the Northwest, and he was very much in tune with what was happening.”