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Beyond Words

Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, a graduate of Stanford and the son of a police officer, talks about athlete activism and the attempt to effect change
Author:

SI: It looks as if Colin Kaepernick sparked this conversation, and, in football terms, you ran with it.

DOUG BALDWIN: Colin Kaepernick was the leader in stepping up. And he took the brunt of the hits for it. I'm thankful for that because he got the conversation started.

SI: So, for your involvement, why you? Why now?

DB: As a human being, when I see things going on in my community, I feel compelled to do something, to say something. And this is a situation that I was passionate about. It hit my heart. My father being a police officer, growing up in the South [Gulf Breeze, Fla.], things I've experienced, it connected.

SI: You mentioned your father was a policeman: Do you have a sense of being singularly well positioned to speak on this issue?

DB: I wouldn't say that, but I feel like, yes, I do have things that have happened in my life that have directed me in this way. But I also do a lot of research. I read. I try to gain as much knowledge as I can and listen to people because I don't know what I don't know.

SI: What has really struck you, reading about this?

DB: So many things have opened my eyes. And it's on both sides. And what it comes down to is empathy for one another. For the police officer to have empathy for the civilian, but also for the civilian to recognize that the officer has a very difficult job.

SI: Protest can be powerful, but activism is different. You're holding meetings with an attorney general, police monitors. Why did you choose this approach?

DB: Because I didn't know all the information. I think sometimes it's difficult for anybody to come to a conclusion outside of their emotional response, and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to eliminate my emotional response and make an informed decision.

SI: What have you learned?

DB: Lots. That training for law enforcement is not universal across the country, that there are different definitions of de-escalation, and I think that's where the root of the problem is. It's not providing our law enforcement with the training or the resources to protect themselves.

SI: Do these vary from region to region? Situation to situation?

DB: There are 18,000 [law enforcement agencies] in this country, and they all have their own specific training regimen, their own policies. So it's hard to impact them at a national level because most of them are controlled locally.

SI: How much of this is about a culture and a power dynamic, and how much of this is about race?

DB: I think a lot of these issues are pushed by the narrative of race, as we see systemic poverty intersect with race. But at the same time, there are other situations that occur that have nothing to do with race or we perceive that they have nothing to do with race. And those situations are not O.K., either. So it's not just one community. It's a much greater picture than that.

SI: Michael Bennett, your teammate, said it would help if a white player joined the fight. Do you agree with that?

DB: I do. I'm a religious man. I believe in God. And ultimately I don't think this is a skin issue. I think it's a sin issue. What I mean is, whether you want to look at it as a black-and-white thing or as a systemic-poverty thing, it doesn't matter. It's just sin. And there are things that we can do as individuals to help each other get to the point where it's a more cohesive relationship.

SI: What do you tell your 14-year-old brother about an encounter with police?

DB: I told him to do everything they tell you to do. Put your hands on the steering wheel if you're pulled over. Don't make any sudden movements. Say, "Yes, sir," and "No, sir." Look them in the eye. Make sure that you're complying with everything they tell you to do.

SI: What if he didn't do anything?

DB: When somebody says, "I didn't do anything wrong," that's a viable, reasonable response, but I would say that law enforcement has a very difficult job. [Officers'] lives are on the line. And sometimes it may be difficult for them to perceive what a true threat is. So if you can eliminate that [uncertainty] in any manner, you should.

SI: What's your relationship with Kaepernick?

DB: We didn't really have a personal relationship prior to this. However, when he started to take a knee, I felt compelled to reach out. I knew he was getting a lot of negativity thrown his way, confusing messages, and I wanted to let him know that people supported him and his message.

SI: What do you mean, confusing messages?

DB: Well, the situation turned into an issue about the national anthem, about disrespect for the military, which it was not intended to be. It was more about [aggressive policing], and that's what I was hinting at.

SI: How'd he take that?

DB: Positively. He has stayed relatively positive, through the death threats, through the negativity on social media and on the news. And I think that's a tribute to his true cause.

SI: How do you respond to such threats?

DB: The same way Colin did. I'm not going to be quieted. And if something were to happen to me, that would further prove the point that there are issues in our culture that need to be changed.

Read a longer version of the interview at SI.com/baldwin or watch 60 Minutes Sports on Showtime.

"Other situations occur that have nothing to do with race and those are not O.K., either."

GO FIGURE

503, 300

Yards passing, by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and receiving, by teammate Julio Jones, respectively, on Sunday. Both players set franchise records in Atlanta's 48--33 win over the Panthers at the Georgia Dome.

1--1

Final score of last Thursday's game between the Cubs and the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the first tie in major league baseball in 11 years. The game was stopped for rain in the sixth inning and, because it had no playoff implications, it was not made up.

65

Points, combined, that Tennessee has trailed in its five games this season. Still, the Volunteers are 5--0, having come from down 17--0 to beat Georgia 34--31 last Saturday on a 43-yard TD catch by sophomore wide receiver Jauan Jennings as time expired.

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