BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 10/24/2014

Thiel: What Seahawks’ Wilson is, and isn’t

The midseason firing of Harvin, along with the absence of explanation, makes it open season on Seahawks. Russell Wilson is not black enough? Really?

Russell Wilson: Happier times, after the NFC Championship. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

According to a story on Bleacher Report, unidentified Seahawks are said to believe that QB Russell Wilson isn’t black enough. It is a description that some others have flung at President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, retired QB Donovan McNabb and late tennis pro Arthur Ashe, among others.

The claim is yet another flaw that must be added to the grievances charged against Wilson:

  • He is too Christian;
  • He is too much a management guy;
  • He is too short.

I’m not really qualified to judge the merits of these claims because I’m inexperienced in all, especially the black part, so I defer to others.

I am, however, qualified to read. And I read Sunday that Wilson became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game. That struck me as somewhat significant in football.

True, the Seahawks lost in St. Louis to the Rams, 28-26, so I added the reason for the loss to the list of grievances:

Failure to play on special teams.

Conclusion: Russell Wilson, loser.

So there you have it — how to go from Super Bowl champion to whale poop in three defeats.

Speaking of excrement, that’s my description for what sportswriter Mike Freeman wrote in his story that said in part, “A Seahawks player said the biggest reason the team traded the wide receiver was his increasing animosity toward Wilson. The player said Harvin was an accelerant in a locker room that was quickly dividing between Wilson and anti-Wilson.”

While I can’t dismiss the claim that a Seahawk may have said that, I can dismiss the story when an inflammatory remark is not on the record with an identified source. Particularly when Freeman used the quote to launch his speculation on an aspect of racial stereotyping that is vaguely analogous to a cocktail recipe, but far less tasty:

There is also an element of race that needs to be discussed. My feeling on this—and it’s backed up by several interviews with Seahawks players—is that some of the black players think Wilson isn’t black enough.

This, again, was similar to the situation with McNabb. And this, again, will be denied by Seattle people. But there is an element of this.

Having lit the fire, Freeman then walks away, as would an arsonist, with three final paragraphs that included minimal discussion of the subject upon which he invited discussion.

What “element”? Which Seahawk? What discussion? And is there a better example in the past week of click-bait?

More laughable was the claim by the anonymous Seahawks that Wilson was too close to the front office, a claim Freeman conflates by offering his own disdainful opinion: “How anyone can have a problem with Wilson — one of the best players in the sport and one of its best citizens — is unfathomable to me, but that’s the case.”

Do you know how many NFL owners would lick latrines for a month to get a GM, coach and quarterback to have a singularity of mind and purpose as Seattle has had? In case you are scoring at home: The other 31. General agreement on the operational mission is as vital to NFL success as it is difficult to achieve. Or else we have (or had) Mike Shanahan vs. Robert Griffin III in Washington.

Quarterbacks are the heart of an NFL operation, and they better be tightly aligned with the head.

While giving the Freeman story more attention runs the risk of further distributing the toxin of piffle, it is illuminating on two counts regarding the degree of difficulty in repeating as titlist: This is the kind of distraction that is typical of the demons visited upon the champ, and the story is among the unintended consequences of detonating the Harvin deal in midseason while failing to be direct about the rationale.

In the absence of forensic evidence — e.g., an Ali-vs.-Liston-style photo of Harvin standing over the prone Golden Tate the day before the Super Bowl — there is probably no good way to handle the firing of a high-profile employee in a high-profile industry. But within two hours of the news of the trade Friday, the world knew of the fight with Tate and the fight with Doug Baldwin, as well as Harvin’s insubordination in the Dallas game. Since none of it had been disclosed previously, there can be only one source — the Seahawks. Anonymously.

So the Seahawks would be wise to lay off castigating Freeman for his use of anonymous sources. It’s best left to others.

As for Wilson, he predictably dismissed in his weekly press chat Thursday any fracture between him and Harvin.

“Percy and I never had differences,” he said. “We had a lot of similarities, probably if anything. We’re guys who want to compete at the highest level, want to win every single time we step on the field, want the ball in our hands to make the big play and everything.

“I’m not sure why the media chose to blow everything out of proportion. It’s part of it, I guess.”

Since, as senior editor of the infant Players’ Tribune, Wilson is new to publishing, here is an explainer: Your bosses gambled extravagantly on Harvin and made national news, lost in a big way and made national news, and because the Seahawks have so far chosen not to be honest, they will be subject to national speculation. Especially after consecutive losses by the defending champs.

The Seahawks have reasons for not denigrating a player on another team. But after their leaks, that fig leaf is a little tattered. A win Sunday will help swath the loins with better cover.

Regarding what may matter for Seahawks fans in this imbroglio, Wilson maintained no fissures are apparent to him in the locker room.

“There’s no division in our locker room, there’s none at all,” he said. “If anything, I think we’ve continued to build, continued to grow. I truly believe that. Every morning when we wake up, we’re looking for one common goal, that’s to win football games.”

In the absence of evidence that Wilson is insufficiently black or insufferably Christian, too short or too tight with the bosses, Seahawks fans hope for one thing: That he is right.

And besides that 300/100 thingy, they ask: Will you play special teams too?


  • ReebHerb

    Last Sunday we saw Wilson compete hard and then after the game, greet opposing players, and then a group from both sides knelt in a prayer circle. I would much rather see this than some of the antics of Sherman and Baldwin leading up to last year’s Super Bowl. The most interesting question of Wilson is what he really thinks of Seattle. He has a ring. Is this the area he would prefer to play and retire?

    Thiel: You don’t remember being short?

    • art thiel

      I think Wilson has had great relations with the vast majority of players, coaches, staffers, media and fans in Seattle. Knotheads are everywhere, so there is no escape.

      As far as shortness, I wish for it every time I enter a plane.

  • Old Hoofer

    Art so correctly wrote, “… I can dismiss the story when an inflammatory remark is not on the record with an identified source.” Let’s not forget this maddening unidentified source problem occurred one week ago, and it wasn’t in Bleacher Report, but in the Seattle Times, courtesy of Bob Condotta. Mere hours after news of the Harvin trade came to light, the Times’ published Condotta’s report that “sources” had knowledge of Harvin’s dust-ups with both Tate and Baldwin.
    One need not be a conspiracy buff to strongly suspect Condotta knew of both incidents through his sources long before last Friday. And if he did, it’s entirely believable that other reporters, both nationally- and locally-based, also knew. If true, that stinks.

    • art thiel

      As with many quality reporters like Bob, he hears many things, but prints only what he can confirm. I was among the thousands of reporters in NYC for the Super Bowl, and I don’t believe any single one of us had knowledge of the Tate fight. Same with the Baldwin fight in August.

      The Seahawks lied about Harvin’s absence from the Oakland game, calling it a personal matter, when it was an informal suspension. So the only persons who can confirm the Harvin episodes were Seahawks personnel, which they did off the record to help justify the trade without attribution.

  • Matt712

    The anonymous Seahawks then went on to speculate how many QB’s in the NFL were in fact not black enough – Peyton Manning and Tom Brady amongst them. Then they all took Mike Freeman over to Dino’s Pub, did shots of Fireball, smoked weed in the parking lot, hopped into a stolen van and headed to Taco Bell. It’s all 100% true but my sources chose to remain either anonymous or off the record so you’re just gonna have to take my word for it.

    • art thiel

      Need some vid from inside the elevator, pal.

  • Big

    Wilson should op for character over reputation. A popular QB is always going to have detractors when to many loses spoil the teams record.

    • art thiel

      QBs, and leaders of many other endeavors, have to walk a tightrope between friendship and leadership. Any number of great QBs have been temporarily or permanently disliked by some teammates for reasons real or imagined. Every QB gets picked apart inside the locker room and outside. That’s part of why the best get paid $20M/yr. They do well the hardest job in sports.

  • RadioGuy

    Let’s see…by all appearances, Russell Wilson is an intelligent, talented, motivated, hard-working, compassionate and well-spoken man who can lead a team and manage a game (which is ultimately what a QB does). What isn’t “black” about that?

    I generally don’t read BleacherReport because it’s essentially a repository (suppository?) for fanboy ramblings, but I wouldn’t necessarily discount content summarily because it came from an anonymous source either. Or did Watergate not really happen until Deep Throat was identified 33 years later? Even lousy writers sometimes want to protect their sources.

    • art thiel

      I’m not against the use of anonymous sources. It is a difficult but often necessary part of journalism. But to be so casual about hiding sources who make no discernibly valid point cheapens its use. It read like the classic throwing-stuff-on-the-wall gambit to see if it will stir up others.

      The use of anonymous sources should be done sparingly when no other option can work. Freeman did not cite any specific interviews in Seattle or elsewhere that suggested he did the legwork that failed to produce on-the-record evidence for the Wilson split in the locker room.

      • Lohengrin

        Last time I checked, freeman was neither Woodward nor Bernstein.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    We in the Pacific northwest know how long we have waited for a franchise QB to appear on the horizon. Theres no secret that there are people who would love to see Seattle fail and come up with all sorts of drama reasons for that in their analogy of what went wrong. Add that to 32 fan bases in this NFL thing and you cant help but laugh at some of the audacious things that come out. As for me 31 fan bases hoping we fail so their team can become the next anointed one is par for the course but writers have a choice whether to be outlandish or not and sadly some of them dont pick the high road in all of this. Is there a book out on how to be black enough?That is just asinine.

    • art thiel

      PNW sports fans have done the same wishing for failure for other champs. We’re no different than anywhere else.

      Here’s hoping the Daily Show’s senior black correspond offers an explanation of how to be black enough.

      • TrippinTheCripple

        “PNW sports fans have done the same wishing for failure for other champs. We’re no different than anywhere else.”
        Ain’t that the truth? For more than 30 years I hated on Elway, Plunket, Gannon, DeBerg, Roethlisberger, Hamburgler, whoever. Villans all.
        But I also learned a little humility. Too many comments I’ve read from too many Seahawk posters over the last year make me pucker so bad I’m ripping the naugahyde off my seat cushion. Show a little class people. Unless you are at the bottom of your fifth-grade class or just at the bottom of your fifth, there’s no need for all of the bragging, bad-mouthing and name-calling.

        Reminds me of something once told to me by a college coach with several national titles to his name: “Always be respectful to those you pass on your way up, because they are going to be the same ones you see on your way down.”
        Besides, it’s just bad mojo.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        I wonder if Justin Beiber has ever been accused of not being white enough?You know coming from the great white north that is almost as preposterous …but if it ever happens i suppose they could get together again for some more bowling and discuss…

        • Larry StoneB

          Justin Bieber…white trash. Not on Pete’s draft list.

  • Jaimie Drew

    Well done Art! Freeman’s story does not merit attention. It is racist and stupid. Thanks for your piece!

    • art thiel

      If had made a case with evidence, but to invite discussion and then not discuss it . . . what a waste of pixels.

  • DJS425

    This is what happens when you lose 2 in a row. People try to find any kind of dirt, whether true or not. Sad part of society. All that really matters is beating the Panthers on Sunday

    • art thiel

      Is that you, Pete Carroll?

      • DJS425

        Thanks for the compliment! :) All that really matter is the task at hand. Can’t control what the media writes, or anything else. All the Hawks can help is winning against the Panthers! Will be a tough game. We thought the sky was falling now. Imagine if the Seahawks lose to the Panthers. This is a MUST WIN for the Seahawks!

        • art thiel

          Remember, must-win is only when a loss ends the season. If they’re 3-4 and run the table, they’re in the playoffs.

  • notaboomer

    why don’t you sportswriters connect the dots? everything went to hell in the proverbial lockerroom right after russell wilson confessed to the world that he was a tween bully who bashed kids heads into walls and knocked out teeth. that is not normal childhood behavior. explore journos!

    • art thiel

      Well, there ya go, boomer. The fallen-angel syndrome. We all missed it but you. Thanks.

      • notaboomer

        I know you dismiss me as a joketer and I am joking a little, but not entirely. Many Seattle sportswriters have adopted a fixed, but perhaps inaccurate, image of Wilson as a superhero. Take Jerry Brewer in the Sunday (10-26-14) Seattle Times writing that Wilson is “intentional in his actions and he’ll probably never stray from his clean-cut image.” Really? Isn’t a confession to assault straying just a bit? Does Brewer think Wilson made up the “bullying” stories to add nuance to his image? Are people who thinks it’s ok to beat the crap out of other people able to completely change their behavior and values instantly?

  • jafabian

    When I first read the BR column I though to myself “This is what happens when you reach the pinacle. The team is slowly crumbling and focusing on itself instead of the goal of another championship.”
    If this is true, the players who have made these complaints about Rusell are only making themselves targets. If Percy can be jettisoned, anyone can. They need to remember they aren’t the Super Bowl champ. That was last season. They are now the DEFENDING Super Bowl champ and everyone is gunning to take it from them. If there’s players who truly feel that way about Russell they’ll find themselves in Oakland or Cleveland. By the same token, Carroll and Schneider need to be careful not to fall into the trap that Holmgren and Ruskell did before them: allowing the team to get old and bringing in subpar players in desperate moves to maintain their level of play.
    As far as no division in the locker room I beg to differ. If there wasn’t any Percy wiould still be here. Or maybe Wilson meant to see there is no longer any divsion??

    • art thiel

      Harvin’s in subordination is an issue directly with the coaches, not teammates. Harvin’s boxing opponents were individual jealousies. Harvin is a weird dude, self-destructive in an emotional way that he keeps from his public side.

      • eYeDEF

        But the divisions had since been confirmed by Kenny Mayne on sportscenter who had two sources, one within the organization and one outside of it (presumably Percy). So I don’t think it’d be accurate to dismiss it out of hand. That said, I’m glad with the win today and hoping this can stop the bleeding of any alleged dissension in the ranks.

  • No Way

    Last year our defense allowed 14.4 points per game. This year in our losses we’ve scored 21, 23 and 26 respectively. Yes you can blame the offense for changing to a weird gimmick oriented jet-sweep fest because it couldn’t stay on the field but the real issue is our defense. I understand that the Percy Harvin trade was a big deal on a national level but I don’t see how trading away a combative, overpaid, underproductive wide receiver reflects in any way on Russell Wilson or our locker room culture. Considering the fact that this guy was from I have a very hard time believing that he actually had sources on our very tight-lipped team and this just reeks of sour grapes and bad journalism from an East Coast writer.

    Indict the offense, question the defense, talk about the penalties but don’t smear Russell Wilson and certainly don’t bring race into this. Click bait was the right term. Thank you for putting this article into perspective.

    • art thiel

      You’re welcome.

      Harvin’s departure is a big deal from the loss of an irreplaceable weapon. But the Seahawks can compensate elsewhere.

      Any locker room disruption is not race-based but standards-based. Wilson works harder, longer than anyone else, and that sort of guy in any workplace draws some resentment. Winning covers it up, and losing exposes it.

    • eYeDEF

      Freeman does have a pedigree that includes writing for bastions of print journalism like the NY Times, WaPo, Boston Globe, and others and appears to have a strong rep in journalistic circles. I’m not sure that it’s right to just dismiss him based on him writing for Bleacher Report now.

  • Nicholas Rose

    The lack of sources in the Mike Freeman piece is appalling, especially when he is making such a racially charged statement as, “not black enough.” The implications of that are far reaching and so full of stereotypes and racism that it is enough to make one cringe. I know it made me uncomfortable after I finished reading the piece. MLK once said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I guess we are still waiting. To make these kinds of accusations against a person based on, “anonymous sources,” is irresponsible to say the least.
    Any QB worth his weight in water is going to have a good relationship with the coach, front office, and other management types due to them all needing to be on the same page in order to have sustainable success, so that part of Freeman’s report is ridiculous and redundant. I am not sure why he even bothers to put anything about that in the piece.
    The fact of the matter is that success brings scrutiny, and every business, team, or organization has some dirt regardless of how successful they are. The same goes for individuals, and RW has been under the microscope and told what he isn’t good enough at and what he can’t do ever since he was in college. He probably has been dealing with that for most of his life. My guess is RW’s mentality will be to ignore the noise and keep doing what he has always done.

    • art thiel

      MLK’s dream is a ways away.

      Michael Irvin made a good point today pm KJR that few NFL players have expectations that the QB is one of the guys, and the QBs should hold themselves apart. It’s the nature of the job, having nothing to do with race.

  • PuyallupBob

    I thought you were going to say that you were particularly inexperienced at being short.

    • art thiel

      I did. I am. I will forever be.

  • 3 Lions

    I am not sure people want to know what really goes on in the back ground of an NFL locker room, never mind management. RW is a class act, regardless. A W would help put all this crap behind us.

  • Lohengrin

    Yeah, that was my problem with Steve Largent, too. Despite all those catches, he was just too Christian and not black enough.

    Sheesh. Does Freeman actually get paid for churning out garbage like that? He seems eminently more qualified to clean stalls at Carnation Farms.

    • art thiel

      Loaves, fishes, footballs, didn’t matter. Steve caught them all.

      Freeman has been credible in the past. I have no explanation.

      • eYeDEF

        So the way I’m inferring what you wrote Art, you’re saying you think Freeman was not credible in this case because he didn’t attach a player’s name to an inflammatory remark? But I’m also assuming that you recognize that players care about their job security too and no player would go on the record with an inflammatory remark. But if all journalists were to follow such a standard, behind the scenes dissension and scandal that should have public accountability might never come to light. So how would you resolve this seeming contradiction in journalistic ethics? How should Freeman have reported this story if you’re saying he should not have provided anonymous quotes without attribution?

  • John M

    Wow, Art, you’re ability to light a thoughtful fuse is still High Art. First I have to say the phrase, “He ain’t black enough,” is arbitrary and racist and couched in Us against Them thinking; in other words crap. Any black person that says this is speaking racist. A considerable number of NFL players, some of them Seahawks, are of mixed race, including Wilson, though I don’t know what his mix is and don’t care. They all seem to conduct themselves very well on and off the field. We’re lucky to have them in our community and on our team. And I don’t like the jabs at Angry Doug, he’s the funnest angry player we’ve ever had that speaks in correct sentences.
    As for your height, though we’ve never met I understand through an anonymous source that it is of a length that would excite a basketball recruiter. If you were younger.

    • art thiel

      The phrase’s connotations are so odious on so many levels. As I wrote, it’s stereotyping, and profiling.

      Regarding height, the excitement would have lasted until I went beyond the four-foot range of my jumper.