Alyssa Royse, on a bizarre love quadrangle, civil disobedience, and the bright witty stars of the Seattle Seahawks.
I know nothing about football. And I live in Seattle. So that takes a certain amount of willful obstinance on my part.
If I’m being honest about it, what I do know about football, I don’t especially like. The league’s seemingly callous disregard for player safety enrages me. Oh, and that’s not to mention a callous disregard for the welfare of anyone associated with the league who isn’t a star player. Like, the cheerleaders, for instance. And I’m not even going to bring up the whole domestic violence mess, because….well.
What I do know something about is “Good Men.” And I know something about brilliant and peaceful civil disobedience. I have spent time arguing that because Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch, signed a contract with the NFL saying that he would talk to the media, he should have to do so. But I think it is a ridiculous requirement, and I quietly cheer him on when he refuses to and instead just pays the fine. It is absurd, in this day and age, that the NFL thinks they can and should control what these men do and say when they’re not on the field. I mean, you don’t actually “buy” them after all, you just pay them to do a job. At any rate, ownership of minds and thoughts and bodies and movement is kind of a sticky subject when we’re talking about rich white men making money of the labor of black men, I know.
Anyway, I have long loved the quiet disobedience of Marshawn Lynch, because, what’s not to love? But I have never loved him more than I did this last weekend when he gave that interview that will heretofore be known only as the “yeah” interview. He played the game they wanted him to play, and he won it. He showed up, but showed that his mind and words are not for sale. Every single question they asked him was met with a one word response, “yeah.”
Except, and this is when I swooned in adolescent adoration, the one question that could have been answered with “yeah.” That one he answered with a pitch for his charity fundraiser to help underprivileged youth. Swoon.
Now, I was torn. Those who know me, know about my deep, frothy and somewhat comical crush on Lynch’s teammate and friend, Richard Sherman. Although I have no idea what he does on the football field, I just love the guy. (Sports Editor’s Note: He’s an all-world cornerback). You do know the guy is brilliant, right? Like, Mensa level genius, and very well-educated. Not that that’s a requirement for being a good man, but for whatever reason, that turns me on like nothing else.
But now, I felt a welling love for Marshawn Lynch, whose on field career is also a total mystery to me. (Sports Editors Note: He’s quite a good running back). In my imagination – the place where Richard Sherman and I have a fantastic love affair, spending hours not only staring into each other’s eyes but having fascinating conversations about social justice, art, whatever – I was feeling my loyalties divided.
So Richard Sherman, fed up with the hypocrisy of the NFL, spurred on by the epic “Yeah” interview, held a press conference with Doug Baldwin, who, I admit, I had also never heard of. (Sports Editors Note: Starting wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks.)
In this press conference, Sherman and Baldwin cut to the chase of the NFL hypocrisy of paying lip-service to player safety while having players play 2 games in 5 days. The hypocrisy of saying that athletes can’t rep alcohol brands to protect their image, while a beer company is the #1 sponsor of the NFL. The hypocrisy of trying to control what players think and do and say off the field.
Sherman (love of my imaginary life) did it with a smile. With a regal sense of calm. With the secure knowledge that he was right, and smarter than anyone in charge. (Secure in the knowledge that he would come home to me and…. no, wait, that was me, not him.) The icing on the cake, however, was the role of Baldwin. And I won’t spoil that for you if you haven’t already seen it. Just watch it above.
I know it seems weird for someone who knows nothing – and cares even less – about football to go on and on about football players. But here’s the thing: this is a country in which we elevate our sports heroes to become national heroes of a sort. I don’t get it, but it is what it is. And here we have three men (one of whom I adore beyond all reason) who are using their fame in ways that are smart, powerful, intelligent, peaceful and, really hysterical.
They’re doing so in a league beleaguered by racism, misogyny, violence and a disregard for human welfare that people like me can’t ignore.
These guys are setting great examples for the people who look up to them.
I’m out of the PR game, have been for a while, but I hope the NFL is paying attention to these guys. They are using their brains and wit to shine lights into the dark places that give the NFL a bad name. If I were running your PR, I’d tell you not to silence them or punish them, but to give them a bigger platform. They are making you better. They are making you more approachable, less reprehensible to those of us with a social conscience.
Also, from what I gather, they won some big game last year, SuperBall or something.
(And Richard, I love you.)
Photo Credit: YouTube/screen capture