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The Performative Activism of Pete Carroll and the NFL

Pete Carroll would love for you to believe he is woke.

Pete Carroll by Mike Morris is licensed under CC BY SA-2.0

The Performative Activism of Pete Carroll and the NFL

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Welcome to another edition of Performative Posturing: NFL Style. To recap: the NFL has released a tone-deaf statement, Drew Brees put his foot in his mouth and then tried not to swallow it, and other related nonsense. Are we surprised? Of course not. Well, the NFL would like you to forget all that so they started with a follow-up statement, which brings us to where we are today. 

Revisionist History

The one defining truth that the NFL will never escape is how they have thus far botched the entire Colin Kaepernick situation. I don’t really think I need to rehash what has been covered multiple times on this site before, but the simple fact is, this whole scenario could’ve played out much differently if the League hadn’t blackballed Kaep. Literally, keep him on any one of the 32 teams’ roster, and a good chunk of this story is never as big as it is. But that never happened, and every single team needs to wear that mark of shame. 

Enter Pete Carroll.

Pete Carroll would love for you to believe he is woke. And, maybe to some extent he is. But at the same time, his “wokeness” result is statements that are on par with the NFL’s.

Now, when Covid started he and Steve Kerr started a podcast called “Flying Coach,” which had the purpose of raising funds for healthcare workers. Honestly, there is nothing wrong with this.

Last week though, they decided it was time to talk about race. And they brought in a special guest… Gregg Popovich. So, we have Steve Kerr, rich white coach of predominately black athletes, Pete Carroll, rich white coach of predominately black athletes, and Pop, (checks notes) rich white coach of predominately black athletes. Yay diversity?

Now, it needs to be said you would be hard pressed to find two coaches I respect more than Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, and they are by and large, very smart men whom seem to be genuine whenever they are called on as allies. And most of the conversation was centered around white privilege and how these men benefit from it, which is definitely a conversation that needs to be had. But I find it hard to believe they couldn’t also find a black voice to amplify in this discussion.

Eventually, the topic turned to Colin Kaepernick, because it is imposible to have a discussion about racism and sports and not bring him up. (For good reason I might add).

Here is what Carroll had to say when asked about Kaepernick by Kerr:

“I think that there was a moment in time that a young man captured. He took a stand on something figuratively—took a knee—but he stood up for something he believed in, and what an extraordinary moment it was that he was willing to take… It elevated awareness from people that just took everything away from what the statement was all about, and it just got tugged and pulled and ripped apart, and the whole mission of what the statement was that such a beautiful—it’s still the statement that we’re making right today, that we’re not protecting our people, we’re not looking after one another, we’re not making the right choices, we’re not following the right process to bring people to justice when actions are taken.

So I think it was a big sacrifice that a young man makes, but those are the courageous moments that some guys take, and we owe a tremendous amount to him for sure.”

On the surface level, that’s all well and good. But the only reason he can say Colin made a sacrifice, is that his peaceful protest cost him his job. And, the part Carroll is not saying here, is Carroll could’ve given him one.

The Seahawks were one of the first teams to bring in Kaep when he left San Francisco for free agency. Obviously, they chose not to sign him. Many at the time thought it had something to do with not wanting the protest on their field or having the media circus in their locker room. A belief that certainly seems plausible when you consider, no one else signed him either.

But, for reasons unknown, Pete Carroll decided to bring up those 2017 workouts this Thursday on a Zoom interview with reporters.

Essentially, he’s trying to say he thought Kaep was too good to be on his team. Which is, quite simply, bullshit.

You’re trying to tell me that the only reason you didn’t sign him was you thought he might challenge Russell Wilson for the starting job? Which would mean, not only having a very talented insurance policy if your QB gets hurt, but you get the better QB regardless who that ends up being??? But you were confident another team would sign him? How convenient that you get to say “I thought he should be on a team this whole time” and shirk any responsibility in the matter.

It needs to be added that Carroll brought all this up seemingly on his own. Why? Just to appear “woke?” A reporter also asked Pete if he thought Kaep would have a job in the NFL going forward.

Here’s his reply:

“After all of the time, the years that have passed, I never received a phone call about it, I never talked to another head coach about it. And I never talked to anyone about it until today. I got a phone call today. I won’t tell you who it was, but I got a phone call today asking, inquiring about the situation, so I know somebody is interested. So we’ll see what happens with that.”

Again… why? Why would another team call Carroll, who has nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick at this point? What other reason than to give yourself cover in the future by pointing to this interview and saying “I thought someone else wanted him so I didn’t want to get in the way. And besides… Russ…”

On that racism episode of their podcast Kerr also asked Pete about the coaches role in the activism of his players, Carroll said this:

“I want our guys to feel comfortable thinking for themselves and feel comfortable with their thoughts and feel comfortable about expressing their thoughts in our environment. We work to create a culture that allows for that to happen in hopes that they do find their voice and are willing to step out and do stuff. Our guys are really active in the community. The meetings we had on Monday, interestingly our guys talked a lot about voting, they talked a lot about making our voices heard.

“Coaches admitted they haven’t in years past, but they are going to vote like never before. And the players were saying the same thing, ‘We’re going to make sure we help people around us understand how important it is.’ Think about that mentality. Our guys are so better informed and so much smarter than they used to be, because they have so much information available to them… I’m really promoting our guys to branch out and reach out, and I’m not afraid of them speaking out. I like them to.

“And I think it’s really important. And I don’t know how somebody could be at their best unless we keep pushing them that way, we’ve got to keep pushing them to find themselves and find their voice.”

Last time I checked, grown men don’t need someone else to help them “find their voice.” They just want people to allow them to be heard. Pete Carroll would be better served amplifying the voices of his black athletes and quietly reflecting on all the harm he has personally been complicit in, instead of trying to continuously paint himself as a Great White Savior. But really, he’s just taking a page out of the NFL playbook…

Andrew Mark Wilhelm is a professional Sound Engineer/Designer, and amateur photographer, writer, musician who recently relocated from California to Rochester, NY. Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit has made Andrew an avid fan of all things Detroit but nothing more so than his beloved Detroit Tigers. Every year he tells himself he won't drink the Lions Kool-Aid, and every year winds up heartbroken come January. A Spartan by heart, and a Golden Grizzly by degree, you can catch his (almost) weekly Hot Takes every Hump Day here at The Turf.

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