BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 08/30/2020

Thiel: ‘Players are frightened for their lives’

He couldn’t be more blunt, and more right: Pete Carroll wants white people to figure out why black people, including Seahawks players, are scared, and fix it.

Pete Carroll said, “Our players are screaming at us: ‘Can you feel me? Can you see me? Can you hear me?’ “/ Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Pro football and pro basketball are the only two high-profile industries in America where most of the employees are Black and well-compensated. Which explains why major sports are about to become ground zero in the culture wars that will be turned to 11 until Nov. 3.

In dredging up the “law-and-order” trope from George Wallace’s racist 1968 campaign, Donald Trump seeks to become the second president of the Confederacy by connecting “ungrateful” protesting players to a Black Lives Matter movement he describes as domestic terrorism, which he claims only he can thwart.

The Democrats will condemn the mendacious portrayal and seek to lionize the players’ righteousness, putting pressure on every word, action or inaction by team owners, university presidents, coaches and players, many of whom are ill-suited to the political fray.

In the middle are many fans of either side, aghast at the defilement of sacred grounds — football weekends. Already denied admission to the games because of COVID-19, they are now denied safe haven from politics.

If and when games are played, the pre-event demonstrations will be fully discussed on TV, because the networks, and especially the colleges, cannot be seen as insensitive to the newly won high ground occupied by the entertainers.

Into this sports dystopia leaps Pete Carroll. Well, he was already there. But Saturday, the Seahawks coach threw down hard.

In his remarkable 15-minute monologue (transcript here), Carroll opened his heart on his views about perniciousness of white ignorance of Black travail in America.

Perhaps the most powerful part was his pullback of the curtain on the genuine trepidation players have once the uniform is off and they head into the streets as civilians and not gladiators in town garb.

More racism anecdotes are being shared publicly by players in all sports, but it is still hard for macho young athletes to be seen in media as scared. But not to each other, and apparently not to Carroll.

“Law enforcement is a huge issue to our guys, because they’re frightened for their lives,” he said. “They’re fighting for the lives of their loved ones and their children. They’re frightened, because they don’t know what’s going to happen, because of what we continue to see.

“So they’re crying out again, calling for us white people to figure it out and to listen and and to fix all of the obvious problems that we know. We all know it’s out there.”

The public murder of George Floyd and the public shooting of Jacob Blake have turned the police-conduct storm into a hurricane. But the threat from authority to crush a minority population has been there for hundreds of years and won’t abate until whites get uncomfortable enough to care.

Black people want to “get in their car and go to the store and feel safe getting out from the parking lot and going in,” he said. “Because they don’t feel like that right now. That’s the truth and white people don’t understand that.

“Our players are screaming at us: Can you feel me? Can you see me? Can you hear me?”

Another unusual aspect was Carroll’s clarion call to his peer group of coaches.

“This is a calling today for all coaches, specifically,” he said, “to take that leadership opportunity and address all of the situations that we can address with our players and the people that are around the programs. At least, I can touch on the coaches and get to them.”

There’s probably not another coach as empathetic and as passionate as Carroll. But I am certain that most of those coaches now will be asked: If you are not, why not? Not just by media, but also by players. Never before in America’s sports-industrial complex are coaches being asked wholesale to account for their behaviors and racial attitudes. And now, by a prominent member of their own.

I don’t know whether Carroll has a larger strategy here. But it’s a reasonable aspiration to think that if his NFL coaching contemporaries shared his vision, it would be almost impossible for owners to try to stop or moderate players’ expressions. Especially after the phrase Black Lives Matter was emblazoned on NBA courts in the league’s bubble in Orlando.

Owners are the game’s most influential people. They carry much corporate weight. Many of them, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft, are Trump supporters and even friends.

But if players and coaches align their goals — police and criminal-justice reforms, progressive front-office hiring practices, using stadiums as voting centers — to force franchises to accept them as policy, Trump can bellow all he wants. Unlike him, NFL owners can’t fire everyone who disagrees with them and still play ball.

Ultimately, enlightened stewardship will transcend politics, because it’s good business. Carroll is right to fan the flames now.

“Black people can’t scream anymore,” Carroll said. “They can’t march any more. They can’t bare their souls anymore to what they’ve lived with for hundreds of years.”

Carroll’s call to action was a faint echo of what Frederick Douglass, the former slave who became America’s greatest human rights advocate of the 19th century, said more than 150 years ago:

Power concedes nothing without a demand.

It never did and it never will.

Find out just what any people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.


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  • Tim

    If you voted for Trump in 2016, hey, everyone makes mistakes. If you vote for him in 2020, clearly you know exactly who this p#$$y grabbing racist thug is now, and your vote reflects your alignment with his values. There’s no sitting on the fence during this transcendent moment in history.

    Can you imagine how these players will respond both on and off the field? However this goes, it stands to be a most memorable NFL season. Carroll’s words are extraordinary.

    This upcoming election is about so much more than the Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals. It’s about ending the cancer of Trumpism. The question is, are we going to embrace more division, chaos, racism, and hate, or are we going to repudiate hate and embrace civility, democratic rule, and a restoration of the institutions that were put in place to protect us from tyranny? The choice couldn’t be more clear: Biden/Harris 2020.

    • art thiel

      The pro football season stands to be a weekly political drama until Nov. 3. Trump can’t resist insulting players, and they’re feeling empowered to fight back. Probably a good thing there’s no fans. Fights galore.

      • jafabian

        Good point. Every game would be liberals vs conservatives. Debates would rage in the stands. And with some cities defunding their police force possibly not as much security.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Somehow, I’m reminded of the Who, from Tommy:

    • Tim

      Now we’re talking. Who would have thought a sports thread could lead to such places?

      • art thiel

        Follow us to the frontiers of human endeavor . . .

    • Quackhead

      Good . . .I’m not the only one!

    • art thiel

      I thought of this too. Thanks for the pull. Great flashback, and I can still recite the lyrics.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    There is no doubt that we need to extinguish any need for our black brothers and sisters to feel threatened in any situation where our white brothers and sisters are comfortable. In order to do this we need the rich and powerful to enact change.

    “….the threat from authority to crush a minority population has been there for hundreds of years and won’t abate until whites get uncomfortable enough to care.”
    I agree with that statement. Sometimes besides threatening with the penalty of “uncomfortable”, another way convince those who are selfish and uncaring is to show that they can benefit more from unity and togetherness.

    What’s left to be understood is why the powerful can’t see the long term in the big picture, that we are all better, stronger, more capable and fruitful when we are together. Some get it, the ones that for instance value and care for their workforce, instead of believing that any warm body will do. Imagine our country if none of our population was held back and continually marginalized – greater things could happen.

    Maybe if the powerful, that only see equality as a loss of their advantage, can imagine a better overall situation, in experiencing that they might also learn to care about others.

    • Tim

      Yes…the notion of true equality in terms of opportunity will require an abdication of power and the belief in a moral superiority that justifies such but I believe that true change is flowing up from the people and not down from the rich and powerful.

      I think working people have always been more moral and just than those in positions of government and industry but Trump has played too many of us against each other. This conveniently takes the spotlight away from the crimes that he more or less commits out in the open for all to see. Some just don’t care.

      Justice demands an honest look at the historical context in which the events of today are being played out. We have to stop simply looking at America as a shining city on a hill, and gaze more deeply into our bloody past and the genocides and oppression that have been with us from the beginning. Yeah, it’s great that the Redskins and Chief Wahoo are finally being relegated to the dustbin of history, and kudos for those in power that see the justice in this, but that is only the beginning. Like Pete Carroll said, we need to see and tell the truth, however painful it may be.

      • art thiel

        The psychological dependency on mythology is strong in many, made worse by the authortarian’s trick of persuading the fearful that only he can fix things. Keeping marginalized people bewildered is a maneuver known to the ancient Greeks, Romans and Chinese.

    • art thiel

      You’re describing a downside of capitalism — the erosion of public good because of the inevitable and increasing income disparity. The rich will not surrender their advantage unless and until there is no other option. I’m not advocating socialism, but we already have several features of social democracy (Social Security, Medicare) that Trump seeks to disrupt. His supporters don’t know or don’t care.

  • Robert Rhodes

    Just as Pete Carroll has become more direct in his statements confronting racism is the U.S., it is my impression that you have, as well, Art. I appreciate that.”The public murder of George Floyd and the public shooting of Jacob Blake have turned the police-conduct storm into a hurricane. But the threat from authority to crush a minority population has been there for hundreds of years and won’t abate until whites get uncomfortable enough to care.” I believe a foundation of the Seahawk culture is “tell the truth Monday.” If there is hope for our country to survive, and live up to the ideals Carroll referenced, we’ll need a version of that. We’ll need to get honest about our history and our ruthless imposition of white power, beginning with the slaughter of many thousands of indigenous people and the theft of their land. The battles we are fighting today can be traced back to those beginnings.

    • art thiel

      All true. I have been more direct, because this is the most important U.S. election since 1864, and sport has become a cultural flash point, much as many fans may regret it.

      Carroll was already part of the engagement, but he has deepened his commitment. I’m eager to see any results from calling out his coaching contemporaries.

  • Kevin Lynch

    ‘Frederick Douglass – Prophet of Freedom’ – won the Pulitzer for David W. Blight.

    “There is a prophet within us, forever whispering that behind the seen lies the unseen”.
    Frederick Douglass, 1862.

    Escaped slave, master orator, one of the great activists of the 19th century. Amazingly, he was at Seneca Falls, NY for the first significant gathering of feminists that sought the suffrage fight. He actually beat Susan B. Anthony to the battle. He was there with Amelia Bloomer and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Susan arrived two years later. He knew he had to have the women in the battle for abolition and the eradication of slavery. He was right.

    • art thiel

      He was right about many things. Thanks for caring about history.

  • jafabian

    I don’t blame players for being scared. Between COVID19, the rise of racism in the US, police brutality and gun violence and with influential owners such as Jerry Jones refusing to hear the players point of view they practically don’t know which way is up. Commissioner Goodell has finally started showing some confidence and consistency in support of the players but he can be overturned by the owners which has happened and the players know it. They saw Kap take a stand for what he and other players believed in and it got him banned.

    As I said earlier the players come from some of the best colleges in the nation if not the world. They’re much more in tune with today’s social issues than most of the coaches, owners and the NFL board are. The League however has been lukewarm in listening to players and their POV. The NFL is in a position to initiate great, positive, influential change but like any other corporation they’re driven by profit instead. When Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs recruited Pepsi CEO John Sculley to be the CEO of Apple and was turned down Jobs uttered the now famous line “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?” That’s the approach the NFL should be taking. The NBA is. So is the WNBA. But both are taking proverbial baby steps. When the nation is being divided more and more and looking for someone or something to be the voice of reason the NFL is missing an opportunity that could benefit many, including themselves, for the wrong reasons.

    • art thiel

      You have a noble sentiment, but as you know, the large majority of pro sports owners are big fans of the status quo. They may have been disrupters as young business people, but they now are the establishment. They are happy to throw token money at social programs, which can be helpful at times, but that signals their attempt to manage problems, not to solve them.

      The players have only limited time and leverage on their platforms. The owners know they are in charge of the long game, and will simply wait until rage passes.

      Unless the players call for a general strike before Sept. 13.

      • jafabian

        Oh, I know that as a fan the NFL feels that I’m replaceable as are the players. Maybe they donate a few hundred thousand to a cause but they make billions annually. I respect that the NBA was the leader in closing down for the pandemic and has the words “Black Lives Matter” on their courts. Picture Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft being told their fields would have to have that on them. To me professional sports aren’t much more than just that: a sports league. College is pretty much right there with them. It’s why I only follow the local teams and don’t watch the NBA anymore.

  • DJ

    Art – I have to say thanks to all of those making a stand right now. Having been a grade schooler in the 60’s, even walked around the notice when MLK was killed to all the classrooms, I would have thought that in all this time we as a society we would have made some progress towards racial equality. Heck, I thought the televising of “Roots” was a huge step. But now knowing how ingrained/systemic racism is in our country (1619 Project, etc., thanks!), the lack of progress is understandable, and really quite sickening.

    While I appreciate the efforts going forth now by our young athletes, and others peacefully protesting, in order to make their efforts worthwhile, EVERY POSSIBLE avenue needs to be taken NOW, CONSISTENTLY, and CONTINUALLY to make something positive happen.

    Whomever might have influence, it’s their time to step up. It’s gonna take someone in the the Old Guard – Big Money group to step up, and maybe influence some sort of waterfall effect.

    Thank you for your dedication, thoughts and coverage. There can be a better day for all Black Americans, and I’d sure like to live to see it and revel in it!

    • art thiel

      Racism is a complex thing difficult to unwind for many. The stopping of our games is a worthwhile strategy, but will fail if it produces mostly inconvenience instead of a reckoning.

      • DJ

        I couldn’t agree more. Just thinking about how pervasive racism is, so deeply imbedded and the source of so much that we consider normal, my head spins. The pressure to eradicate racism and correct for its mistakes needs to be multi-sourced, from every direction possible. Sports is great from a visibility standpoint. But not everyone is a sports fan and not all sports are stepping up to make the sacrifices.

        My company has started weekly discussion group events on racism, and there’s quite an initiative to spread understanding and to be proactive. I’m attempting to get involved and am looking for a way to make a difference. Wish me luck!

  • Tman

    Defund the police? Hard to accept.

    Eliminate “riot” control weapons and gear from the budget? Absolutely

    Stop sending “riot” control police to peaceful demonstrations? Absolutely.

    End Nixons drug war? Absolutely.
    Pay high school educated police significantly less than college educated teachers ? Absolutely.

    Prosecute police who kill unarmed citizens for murder 1? Absolutely.

    Punish convicted police to the fullest extent of the law? Absolutely.

    Disarm police? Absolutely. Billy clubs are enough. Always have been, always will be.

    Spend police training time teaching the Constitution, the law of the land, instead of takedowns, chokeholds and firearm usage? Absolutely.

    Thank Jamal Adams for having the courage to express his righteous fear? Absolutely.

    Thank Pete Carroll for supporting all people of color in his call to end racism? Absolutely.

    Change Police lifestyle so black and brown people, all people, can live without fear of the police sworn to protect and serve us? Absolutely.

    Allocate money saved in paring the police budget to social programs to mitigate homelessness and drug addiction? Absolutely.



    • Richie Rich

      I’m no gun-nut – I don’t even own one – but having a police force armed only with billy-clubs, that’s just silly.
      I’m all for all other suggestions you listed. I just want it to have a chance to become reality.

      • Tman

        Police worked with billy clubs and walked their beats, knowing every child and parent on their beats. Then came the peaceful demonstrations for Civil rights when police took to horseback and beat marchers with their billy clubs while hosing them down with water cannons. Then came the 68 convention when Mayor Daley called out the Police who beat peaceful demonstrators protesting the insertion of Hubert Humphrey as the Democratic candidate instead of Eugene McCarthy who lost by the narrowest of margins to Robert F Kennedy who was assassinated by CIA