BY Art Thiel 07:03PM 08/15/2017

Thiel: Unrest, anthem protest, stir the Seahawks

New Seahawks OL Oday Aboushi is a grad of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He can’t believe what happened. And Pete Carroll was surprised by Michael Bennett’s protest.

Oday Aboushi, here in 2012 during his days as an All-ACC guard at the University of Virginia, is one of the few Muslims in the NFL. / 16 Minutes to Palestine

Add two more to the long list of people anguished over the grim, non-sports news of the weekend: Oday Aboushi and Pete Carroll. One was crushed to see his college hometown awash in hate and blood, the other surprised to see a player he thought he knew well fuel a national controversy by, without notice, sitting out the national anthem.

“It happened in what I thought was the happiest place on earth,” said Aboushi, a University of Virginia grad who started at right guard Sunday in the Seahawks’ exhibition opener win after Charlottesville was churned by racial violence Saturday. “It was really shocking. Charlottesville was maybe the best four years of my life.

“The city was all about love and peace and unity — what UVa stands for.”

As the Seahawks stood Sunday for the national anthem at Stubhub Center in Carson, CA., one sat down — DE Michael Bennett, a protest gesture Carroll, who prides himself on anticipating events, didn’t know was coming.

“This was a little bit of a surprise,” said Carroll, who admitted he didn’t agree with the gesture.

“I love our country and think we all should stand when the flag is up,” he said, but remained supportive of Bennett. “He’s in a great place and will do great work well after his time in football; it’s easy for me to support him. I think we should all be standing up.”

To illustrate how the non-sports developments from the national fracture creep into sports, WR Doug Baldwin seemed to side with Bennett.

“I thought he did an excellent job . . . in his response after the game,” said Baldwin, who has worked as a liaison between community groups and police on social justice matters. “I was really proud of him. And I think we, as a society, should be proud.”

Will Baldwin think about joining Bennett, who said Saturday he plans to continue the anthem sit-out, Friday when the Seahawks host the Vikings at the Clink?

“Absolutely,” he said. “We are going to have a conversation here shortly. We try to do things as a team and as a family. We will see how we can support Mike in this situation.”

Baldwin’s disclosure suggests the team may re-visit a similar circumstance from last season, when San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick touched off a national furor when he sat for the anthem before a 49ers game. The Seahawks held a team meeting to discuss a response and came up with a unity gesture of locking arms during the anthem, which some outside the team criticized as pointless.

Asked the purpose of an anthem protest, Baldwin said, “I think that everybody has the right to the freedom of speech, right? So whether you agree with it or not – that’s irrelevant. Individuals have the right to the freedom of speech . . . taking a seat for something that they deem important, right?

“We’re sitting here having a conversation about whether it’s important that a guy stands  or sits, when the topic is inequality or injustice. I look in the stands and some of our games both home and away and I see people who 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 that?

“(Bennett) is taking a reasonable and peaceful approach to something that is (vitally)  important to our society and the health and wellness of our communities.”

Carroll said he and Bennett have talked twice, and praised his star pass rusher for his world view and actions.

“We’ve been working a long time together, on and off the field, in great depth,” he said. “He’s really dedicated the past few years of his life to what’s going on around the world. He’s traveled everywhere to try to understand people’s issues and concerns.

“It’s captured his heart. He’s doing everything to help where he can. I support the heck out of his issues and concerns.”

Meanwhile, Aboushi, born in Brooklyn, the ninth of 10 children to Palestinian immigrant parents, was trying to grasp what happened in a part of his world.

He is among the few practicing Muslims in the NFL. Muslims were among the minorities castigated by white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, which prompted a counter-protest. The clash left one person dead and 19 injured after a man suspected of pro-Nazi allegiance drove his car through a crowd of counter-protestors.

Aboushi was stunned at the contradictions.

“We had a big international section,” Aboushi said of his time from 2009-12 at Virginia, where he was all-ACC his senior year. “Everyone was treated the same, whether Muslim, Christian, Jew — everyone was given the same opportunity.

“(Ethnicity) was never an issue. We were part of a team with players from all backgrounds, places and countries. Being a tolerant school like Virginia, they look for people who are different. Being the same isn’t always a cool thing there.”

He supported Bennett’s post-game explainer about his anthem sit-out. Bennett, by the way, is scheduled to be interviewed Wednesday by Jake Tapper on CNN.

“To happen in Charlottesville in 2017 — definitely shocking, eye-opening,” he said. “It showed that we have a long way to go. It’s not up to anyone but us to change.

“Like Mike said, we have to understand that people are different, but it doesn’t mean they’re bad. Because you eat something different, you dress a different way, doesn’t mean you’re necessarily bad. He’s right to step up and take on issues, and learn the differences.”

Given the daily drama in Washington, D.C., that so far invigorates the white nationalist  fringe, impacts on sports, teams and players are impossible to avoid, as Aboushi established. Carroll typically revels in the handling of social issues among young players, and sounded determined to avoid corrosive consequences.

“We are not scattered and disconnected,” he said. “By the same token, these are young men growing up trying to find their message, their heart. I couldn’t support that more.”

But Carroll doesn’t like surprises, even from players he respects. Then again, he and Aboushi join most of the rest of the world in seeking respite from surprise.


  • wabubba67

    At this point, I’m OK with nearly anything that the players come up with. With Trump in office, how the White House now views minorities supersedes any qualms that I might (or might not) have had about the police. If the Seahawks played in DC, I would be fine with the team sitting on the ground en masse, facing away from the flag. If the Seahawks happen to win the Super Bowl, I hope that the traditional phone call from the President endlessly rings while TV cameras roll…or, even better, Bennett insists on answering.

    • art thiel

      Whatever veil regarding Trump’s views on race that fooled some people has been removed — by the man himself. Now his interaction with sports, which he enjoys, likely will be denied him. He will be left with his “fine folks,” who hate the faith of his son-in-law and daughter.

  • Bayview Herb

    It seems ro me to be simple. If you are on the football field in uniform you are representing the Seattle Seahawks. This is wrong on several levels. Unless the team allows on field protests, they become not only a distraction, but a policy change. Leave the stadium in street clothes, your 1st amendment right can be exercised.

    • Steed

      Stand, sit, whatever, who cares? It’s pre-game. If they start protesting during the game, then they will be kicked off the team.

      They don’t usually even show the anthem on tv. Our exposure to this subject is limited to how much we want to pay attention to it in forums like this. It’s easy to ignore.

      And really, if we aren’t going to take to the streets to protest our President defending self identified Nazis/White Supremacists (the ideology that thousands of Americans died fighting), are we really going to get upset about someone not standing for the national anthem? This is small beer, unless you want to make it big. It’s your choice.

      • art thiel

        Well said, Steed. If the anthem is vital to the game, the networks should be obligated to show it instead of commercials.

    • art thiel

      If protests were to disrupt games, I’d agree. But the anthem has nothing to do with the game. It’s a political custom, not a sports custom.

  • 1coolguy

    Bennett, et al need to give it a rest. This is sports, where people scrimp and save to afford a ticket to mellow out, watch the game and forget about reality for a few hours. Bennett and Kap are essentially selfish people who are not satisfied with the soap box they are given whenever they need one, outside of the games. They can call a presser at a moments notice in the middle of the I-90 bridge if they want to and the press will be there.
    So I fully disagree with their bringing their reality inside the stadium, again, where people go to enjoy sports and often to forget the reality outside the stadium.

    • Effzee

      Bunk. Hogwash. I don’t believe for a second this argument about sports providing a reprieve from the outside world. Not when they have military jets fly over the stadiums, military adverstisements in the stadiums and programs, and often honor military themes in between quarters. Or does this upset you as much as Bennett’s actions, as it should? I bet you’re just fine with pro-military, nationalist propaganda being shoved down your throat, aren’t you?

      You, like reebherb and others, just don’t want to hear any brown person’s side of things. That’s what it boils down to. You want to go on in your little comfort bubble with your fingers in your ears, while the world burns around you, imagining that you play no role in it. You are who Bennett is talking about, and by making you uncomfortable, he’s winning.

      I dare you all to stop watching the Seahawks. I double-dog dare you! Go ahead. Follow up your words with actions. Like Bennett does. I bet you don’t have it in you. Bennett’s actions don’t affect you in any way that you don’t allow them to.

      • art thiel

        I’m good with ending all military displays at sports. I’m appreciative and respectful of all who serve, but the manipulation of U.S. war imagery, particularly as more sports include more people from countries around the world, has no logical place at a domestic sports event.

    • art thiel

      Please let me know how to build that wall around sports, coolguy. It will work as well as Trump’s plan at the Mexican border.

      The last thing Bennett is, is selfish.

    • jafabian

      I’m of the Pete Carroll mentality. Rather see them stand but respect their decision. The state of the country is of unrest right now, to put it mildly, but after a year of many NFL players not standing for the anthem has it really accomplished anything? Some might say discussions but America needs more than that. Dr. King would be the example to follow, IMO, instead of Kap.

      • art thiel

        Making social progress rarely has a one-year scoreboard. It’s usually done one person at a time, one day at a time. Painfully slow. But I would disagree about regressing from MLK’s day. Lots of progress since then, just not enough.

        Trump’s election is a setback, but it was predicted 100 years earlier:

        “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and
        more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious
        day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last
        and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” — H. L. Mencken, 1920

        • jafabian

          Excellent quote Art. Nicely done.

        • John M

          I agree with many of the views posted, including yours, Art, but Bennett sitting is not as thoughtful or effective as his other contributions, and in fact risks unnecessary resentment. Justice is underway for what happened in Charlottesville and sitting pales in comparison to the price Heather Heyer paid. The show of unity is the classiest thing any team has done. The Team should together find a way to add to that, not detract from it. Sitting? I am reminded of James Meredith, who was even little ahead of King. Meredith never sat for anything . . .

          • art thiel

            Bennett believes the resentment is an acceptable consequence of making people uncomfortable, because comfortable people are not inclined to see the need for, or participate in, change.

            Sitting is merely his peaceful protest for an anthem, just as Meredith striding across campus to repudiate segregation was his peaceful protest. Both conveyed the same necessary message.

    • Doug Johnson

      Cool guy, are you an African-American? Were you ancestors slaves, ripped from families and sold to the highest bidders? We are still an unjust society, still racist as hell, as is being made clear daily in America, now by the president himself. I fully support Bennett, Kap, etc. In fact, i was hoping the Seahawks would put him on the roster. More power to these courageous athletes. This issue must be confronted and solved for America to prosper for all, not just rich white guys, which is the way we’ve been headed since Reagan.

  • Steed

    ““I love our country and think we all should stand when the flag is up,” ”

    I hope he meant “when the anthem is played”.

  • Paul Harmening

    Art, I have appreciated your brand in sports journalism from the get go. It was Royal Brougham who was the first to steer me to towards the enjoyment of the sportspress world as a young man.
    I thank you for your kindly response towards my essay in yesterdays issue. Therefore, I accept the invitation to continue with prejudice.

    I agree with you and others that it would be okay if this tradition of flag waving and anthem singing be discontinued except for standout sports occasions, i.e. Superbowl, WS, etc. I will continue to politely disagree that as long as it’s being done, the occasion be abused on the field to broadcast personal social or political objections, which will result in the obvious mass media coverage following.

    You mentioned you would pay to see Bennett and myself together on a podium discussing these unjust social issues. We can do that by paypal if you prefer. I have a lot of podium experience in my lifetime as a speaker, so you may be surprised. I do appreciate his enthusiasm and activities towards his beliefs. Just not his method of using the flag/anthem to attract attention towards his issues. Plain and simple, it’s disrespect. But it is street smart.

    Now then, I’m wondering about what real working contributions and solutions towards his issues about social inadequacies are being accomplished with this uproar he and others like himself have created? Will there be a report somewhere along the line showing how all this has created a flow of goodwill, positive activity, solutions and improvement?

    Or will it simply create more division, further unrest and increased traffic and profit in the sportspress wide world of sports?


    • art thiel

      Bennett has already succeeded, Paul. Your responses are proof. He has you responding in public to issues that he deems important. Obviously, you disagree, and that’s OK. But my bet is that if the two of you ever met in a respectful dialogue, you each would walk away with a greater appreciation of the other.

      His goal is to make white people like you uncomfortable enough to engage. He might ask you what the anthem has to do with the playing of games. If it were important to the game, why don’t the TV nets show the entire anthem instead of purposefully ignoring it to show commercials? He might also suggest to you that that flag was, and always has been, a symbol of rebellious resistance to oppression.

      Glad you’re still reading, Paul.

  • Effzee
  • tor5

    I’m a little uncomfortable with the sitting during the anthem. But, then, I’m utterly dismayed by what’s happening in our country. I knew that outright racism was alive in America, but I’m shocked at the groundswell of Nazi-types suddenly rising up. I knew that our president had no problem with stirring racial discord to his advantage, but I’m shocked by what he said about Charlottesville. I’m at a loss and really don’t know how to respond. So how can I question Michael Bennett? By all accounts his motives are admirable. So I’ll gladly accept some discomfort with Bennett’s protest, while our president is plunging a dagger into my American heart.

    • Steed

      It’s an important contrast to point out. Bennett is declining to stand for the national anthem, while our President is defending Nazis/White Supremacists.

      Whatever negative feelings people have about Bennett’s actions, they should be multiplied 1000 times in regards to the leader of the free world defending Nazis.

      • art thiel

        Interesting that Merkel was quick to forcefully condemn. She’s far more the LFW than Trump.

    • art thiel

      Accepting discomfort. That’s a big deal, tor. Congrats. It’s part of civic life now. Better to deal than to flee.

  • SoDo Slayer
    • art thiel

      The youngsters don’t know why the iconic hero was so hated by most of white America in the 60s. Scared ’em.

  • Kirkland

    Better Bennett sit during the national anthem than him commit domestic violence. Reasonable people can defend the former, they can’t defend the latter.

    As for sports being separate from politics, that horse left the barn a long time ago.

  • Effzee

    The people complaining, hating athletes who sit for the anthem, and
    claiming its why they don’t want to pay attention to sports anymore are
    just the right wing version of the narrow-minded, hyper-sensitive,
    self-absorbed SJW types who shut down Evergreen State College last

    NFL players have only been standing for the national anthem since 2009. Its not like it is a long-standing tradition. Though the reasons they began doing it are not publicly known, it is thought the Dep’t of Defense *paid* the NFL to have players begin standing. The military is a huge sponsor of football, college and pro, sets up recruitment stands at games, etc. This is just about as political as it gets.

    Heck, Softy was interviewing Oday Aboushi from training camp yesterday and he had to pause several times because for some reason an Army helicopter was using taxpayer funds to fly over the field and have someone wave an American flag out of it. I hope people who want politics out of sports are just as offended by the blatant nationalistic militarization of sports events as they are by Bennett, Kaepernick, etc.

  • Bayview Herb

    When Bennett puts on his Seahawk uniform and enters the field of play, he is not an individual, he is representing the team.

    • art thiel

      He’s both Herb. Carroll allows it as long one doesn’t impact the other. When the ball was snapped, Bennett was playing, not sitting.

      • Bayview Herb

        I understand your point. Mine is these protesters are a public relation disaster.