Football gave Seahawk receiver Doug Baldwin a life most people would envy, but he knew there was more to life than football. He was a difference maker on and off the field.
Now that the team has released him, there hasn’t been any word from the Filipino American football player what he plans to do next in his life. Injuries and surgeries this off season make a continuation of his athletic career doubtful.
He once expressed an interest in entering the rough-and-tumble world of politics. It would be easy to see him in Congress or the Washington legislature.
“If I’m being completely honest, for a long time I was too self-absorbed to really have my eyes open to things going on around me and in our society,” Baldwin said last year. “I have come a long way in that regard and still have a ways to go, but I’m now able to acknowledge that I have a greater opportunity to truly impact society in some capacity and I feel compelled to do so. I feel like it’s my obligation as a human being on this earth—if I’m occupying space on this earth, if I’m breathing oxygen, then I also need to be helping others who also occupy space and breath oxygen on this earth.
“So for me, it’s a really silly ‘why.’ The real question is ‘why not?’ If we want to be a society that cares—we had so many conversations about, pick anything, healthcare, the housing crisis, children with cancer, anything—we have so many causes, things that we care about, but yet when it comes down to simple things like injecting empathy in a conversation, we have a hard time doing that. So I really challenge people to stop asking the question of, ‘why would he do that, why would she do that?’ and instead say, ‘why wouldn’t they do that?’ Because again, at the end of the day, if I’m occupying this space on earth, that means somebody else is coming after me to occupy that space, so I want to make sure that I’m leaving the world a better place for my children, my grandchildren moving forward.
“The question is, why would I not do that?”
Baldwin, whose father was a police officer, made those statements in support of Initiative 940, a bill that eventually was signed into law which called for “law enforcement to receive violence de-escalation, mental-health, and first-aid training, and provide first-aid; and change standards for use of deadly force, adding a ‘good faith’ standard and independent investigation.”
His work on getting 940 passed is far from being the only time he has used his platform to make a difference.
Baldwin also played a pivotal role in the creation of the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund, at a time in 2017 where controversy was hovering over the league as some players protested racial injustice during the national anthem.
“I think that was really important, because for the longest time now, we’ve been trying to figure out, what can we do as a team to impact change?” Baldwin said after the Action Fund was launched. “And this is something that’s really tangible to all of us. And again, we really wanted this to be a unified effort. We’ve been trying to make a unified demonstration, a unified message, and now this is a unified action we can all take. And now we’re going to be able to incorporate people outside of the building.”
Later that year, the Equality & Justice for All Action Fund, partnering with the Seattle Foundation, awarded grants ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 to seven non-profit organizations focused on education and leadership programs addressing equality and justice. The Action Fund also partnered with Pearl Jam last year to help fight homelessness as part of the band’s Home Show performances at T-Mobile Park.
Baldwin has also long been one of several Seahawks to use his platform to address issues much bigger than football. Along with former teammates like Sherman and Michael Bennett and others, Baldwin was willing to make intelligent, passionate points on serious topics such as criminal justice reform. And he brought to those conversations unique perspective of having a father who spent more than three decades in law enforcement.
“There has to be change and progress,” Baldwin said in 2016 when players began an initiative to build a bridge between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. “Change is inevitable, change will always happen, but you have to apply direction to change, and that’s when there’s progress. Right now what we’re doing as a team, we have a follow through. The difference between a mob and a movement is a follow through. That’s what Harry Edwards told us when he came and talked to us for three hours about the situation that’s going on in our country right now. He said the difference between a mob and a movement is a follow through. So our team is united together to have a follow through. At this very moment, we’re scheduling meetings with the mayor of Seattle, with police chiefs across the state, and we’re discussing ways to just start discussion. That’s the first step, is to have communication. We need to know the perspective of other people. The greatest tragedy for any human being is going through their entire lives believing the only perspective that matters is their own. We need to break down those walls and barriers and get people to see that there’s perspectives outside of their own eyes.”
In the spirit of following through with actions, Baldwin not only helped Initiative 940 get passed into law, but he also played a key role in the players creating a build a bridge task force, and over the past three seasons, Baldwin has had numerous visits with various law enforcement agencies as well as community leaders. In 2017, he co-wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committeewith NFL commissioner Roger Goodell supporting criminal justice reform.
“I think it’s time for us to hold each other accountable, and when I say hold each other accountable I mean to the preamble of the United States Constitution, which states, and I quote, that ‘In order to form a more perfect union, we must establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility,’” Baldwin said in 2016. “So as an American Black male in this country, I’m suggesting, calling—I’m demanding—that all 50 state attorneys general call for a review of their policies and training policies for police and law enforcement to eliminate militaristic cultures while putting a higher emphasis on de-escalation tactics and crisis management measures.
“With that being said, I believe that the greatest power we have is in our people. And with great power comes great responsibility. And I’ve said this before, and as Martin Luther King famously said that, ‘We must not become a culture, a society, that is more concerned with order than with justice.’ And I believe that if we are more concerned with order than justice, then we’ll lose both.”
For eight seasons, Doug Baldwin was one of the Seahawks’ best players on the field. His legacy in Seattle, however, will be much bigger than the passes he caught or the games he helped the team win.
“I couldn’t be more proud what he’s doing,” Seahawk coach Pete Carroll said after Baldwin visited the state capitol in 2016 to fight for police reform. “He continues to carry the torch and build a bridge between community and law enforcement. He’s doing some marvelous stuff. I’ve got feedback from people he’s visited with a number of times now, and he continues to be really impressive and on task. I think he’s going to be a legitimate factor bringing about change.”
Since the announcement from the Seahawks three days ago, there hasn’t been any comment from Baldwin. Based on his comments, it sounds like the Stanford grad won’t be missing from the public eye.
After 960 was passed, Baldwin was asked if his activism was just a one-time thing or would he consider being more politically active, like running for office.
“It is a beginning—unfortunately, my wife would say,” Baldwin said with a grin.
“It is a beginning. I think that, personally, just being involved in a more hands-on way, level, in terms of laws and legislation that impact our everyday lives, really getting invested in what it means to vote, and use your voice and platform to effectuate change in a positive way, it’s hard to go back. Especially when you take so much time to research and to be empathic to opposite viewpoints and see there are opportunities to bring people together, to build bridges and actually have a conversation about things that impact our everyday lives, and to change them for the better. Not only for ourselves in the immediate future, but also further on down the line, for our children and our grandchildren.”
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