RENTON -- Doug Baldwin has been a passionate defender of the rights of players to protest police brutality and social injustice over the last two seasons. He's sponsored legislation that attempts to improve police training and deescalation tactics after meeting with many local police representatives.
And while Baldwin himself never engaged in the various protests during the national anthem that attempted to raise awareness surrounding these issues, he always expressed his support for players that wanted to make such a gesture.
So it was little surprise that Baldwin had opinions to share on Thursday after the NFL changed league policy that required players to stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room moving forward, and on the comments of President Donald Trump saying players "shouldn't be in the country" if they didn't stand for the anthem.
"I think the NFL really missed it this time," Baldwin said.
Baldwin has been a part of a Players' Coalition that has had discussions and meetings with the NFL and owners regarding the protests. The two sides reached an agreement last fall that the NFL would provide financial support toward players' social causes moving forward. However, that didn't stop the mandate being handed down by the NFL regarding the anthem protocol. The previous language said players "should" stand for the anthem, but were not expressly required to do so.
"I think that in conjunction with the NFL the way that things were going," Baldwin said, "I felt on the Players Coalition side of things we were coming to an amicable agreement and relationship and working toward initiatives and causes that we wanted to see as players addressed, I thought that you would see the demonstrations and the issues within the NFL dissipate. But again, when you stoke the fire and inflame a gap that was really dissipating at the time, diffusing, you cause more problems. That’s why I say I think the NFL missed it."
As for the comments of President Trump, Baldwin was blunt.
"He’s an idiot, plain and simple," Baldwin said. "I mean, listen, I respect the man because he’s a human being first and foremost, but he’s just being more divisive, which is not surprising. It is what it is. But for him to say that anybody who doesn’t follow his viewpoints or his constituents’ viewpoints should be kicked out of the country, it’s not very empathetic. It’s not very American-like, actually. It’s not very patriotic. It’s not what this country was founded upon. It’s kind of ironic of me that the President of the United States is contradicting what our country is really built on."
Trump has been a visceral figure in the NFL landscape regarding the protests. He called players that protested "sons of bitches" last September, which led to increased protests across the league in response. Both the Seahawks and Tennessee Titans remained in their locker rooms prior to their game the next day.
Trump declared a victory, real or imagined, with the NFL's change in policy and then took it a step further saying players needed to be on the field and at attention for the anthem.
"I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms," he said on FOX News Channel on Thursday. "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem."
Baldwin was still trying to process the changes made by the NFL and called the switch "a little traumatizing." He also believes players staying in the locker room would defeat the purpose of the protests and the aim to bring change to the issues they care about.
"It does," he said. "Because unlike our current policy, we’re not trying to be inflammatory in regards to the national anthem or to disrespect our flag. Again, this was about trying to recognize there are issues in our community where there has been loss of life at the hands of people who … there’s loss of life – I shouldn’t have to qualify it, there’s been loss of life. So, as players we’re more cognitively aware we’re not trying to be inflammatory toward our country or patriotism, but of course paid patriotism isn’t patriotism."
The "paid patriotism" line comes from the fact the NFL has been paid by the Department of Defense to stage patriotic demonstrations.
In the end, Baldwin understands the league is free to make whatever rules they choose and have concern over their bottom line, but he remains disappointed with the path that was chosen.
"Absolutely not," he said regarding if concern of owners losing money was understandable. "And I want to clarify that. I want to make sure that is well understood: I am not saying that as a business you don't have the right or the power, the control to do what they did. I firmly understand that, that that's how we live in a capitalistic system. However, there is a difference between what you can do and what you should do.
"Again, I think the NFL missed it on what they should do, as it pertains to this topic."
Photo Credit: Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin speaks with reporters following an offseason practice on May 24, 2018. (photo by Curtis Crabtree / Sports Radio 950 KJR)