When the Seattle Seahawks take the field against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Mercedes Benz Stadium, it will mark the start of the 2020 NFL season. But it could serve as a historic day in the football world as well.
With the NFL season about to begin, expect a backdrop of renewed demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality to be at the epicenter.
It’s the “season of protests,” as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll recently said after the Milwaukee Bucks elected not to take the court vs. the Orlando Magic in protest of the recent shooting of Jacob Blake.
The Seahawks could be the next team to sit out games in protest.
Seattle has been having ongoing conversations about how they plan to protest when their NFL season begins on Sept. 13. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll believes it’s his obligation to encourage his players to speak out and take action if they feel it’s warranted.
"What I've encouraged the guys to do is, 'Let's stay with the topic. Let's get comfortable with staying with the topic so that we do stay in the present,'" Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. "And we can handle it. We can handle it, and it's the right thing to do. We've got a lot of responsibility to keep learning and keep growing, and I want to keep helping our players be exposed to whatever they can be exposed to learn and have a greater sense as they're going through this as well as everybody else. I feel there's a responsibility on my end of it to keep doing that, and in that, let's stay with it...
As of now, any plans for any pregame protests will be “kept in-house,” Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner told reporters Wednesday.
Wagner believes there has been little change since George Floyd was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May. But as the days tick down on a summer of racial reckoning, the Seahawks captain wants his teammates to continue to play a significant role in their communities.
"I can't say that it's gotten too much better since then," Wagner said. "So, I think it's just a being conscious and aware of what's going on in your world and understand the impact that you have and that you can have in your community, because I think it starts in your community. So, I think everybody's working and trying to figure out ways that they can impact their community and impact the world, so I think it's important for everybody just really be conscious about things. I don't know if it's necessarily just about the gestures, because I feel like the gestures have been done. But having guys used their platform to help this world be better I think is really important."
The Seahawks announced over the weekend that players will wear decals on helmets this year during games bearing names of victims of police brutality like Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland.
They will also don t-shirts during pregame warmups that read “We Want Justice.”
The Seahawks latest display of activism comes days after Carroll elected to cancel practice and hold a lengthy meeting with his players. Moments later, Carroll delivered a passionate 15-minute statement to the media about racism, voting and challenging white people to educate themselves to listen to Black athletes.
In what has already been the most unusual offseason in the league’s history with the ongoing pandemic still at large, it will be worth watching to see how the Seahawks and the rest of the NFL continue to push for social justice reform with the world watching.
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Seahawks Podcast with host Joe Fann and NBC Sports' Peter King]