A 33-27 win over the Seahawks not only gave the Titans their second straight win, but they also exhibited the rare feat of teaming up with their opponents for a demonstration of solidarity after an unprecedented verbal attack by the 45th President of the United States against professional athletes who protest in all major sports leagues. In case you missed it, DJ Trump had said pro sports owners should fire “the son of a b…..” and yes, he used the full derogatory word in a public speech on Friday in Huntsville, Alabama.
Prior to the game, while both teams remained in their respective locker rooms, Meghan Linsey sang the National Anthem, after which she took a knee in support of the ongoing protest movement.
“As a team, we wanted to be unified in our actions today,” read a statement from the players through the Titans organization. “The players jointly decided this was the best course of action. Our commitment to the military and our community is resolute and the absence of our team for the national anthem shouldn’t be misconstrued as unpatriotic.”
They were supported by the team controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, who said “I am proud to stand with our players and support them.”
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 20-of-32 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns in Tennessee’s 33-27 win over the Seahawks. In eight career games, Mariota now has 20 touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 119.0. His passer rating on Sunday was 104.3. Running back DeMarco Murray ran for 115 yards and a touchdown – a 75-yard run.
The Titans took a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 24-yard field goal, and stretched the lead to 6-0 on another field goal, this one from 37 yards. On the drive, a scrum erupted on the Tians sideline after Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman hit Mariota late and out of bounds, which resulted in several players being penalized.
The Seahawks then took the lead late in the first half, scoring on a four-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to receiver Doug Baldwin to take a 7-6 lead. The Titans quickly drove down the field, and Succop made his third field goal of the game, from 47 yards, to give the Titans a 9-7 lead on the final play of the half.
The TSU Aristocrat of Bands showed out at half-time, with a mesmerizing six-minute show.
The second half started with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to receiver Rishard Matthews, and on the team’s next possession, rookie tight end Jonnu Smith scored on a 24 yards pass play from Mariota to make it 23-14. Then came the big run from Murray, who raced 75 yards to his left and then downfield for a touchdown to make it 30-14 with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
After a touchdown pass from Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to tight end Luke Willson trimmed the lead to 30-20, Titans kicker Ryan Succop made his fourth field goal to give the Titans a 33-20 lead in the fourth quarter. A touchdown pass from Wilson to Paul Richardson made it 33-27 with 1:50 left. Delanie Walker recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Titans ran out the clock.
Following the game, in the visiting team press conference, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, players Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, and Russell Wilson each spoke eloquently about why the two teams had organized and mutually agreed upon the particular action they chose to take together.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who had issued his own statement Saturday supporting his players, said Sunday’s decision was a player-driven one, and said, “That was the statement that they felt they needed to make. It wasn’t a demonstrative thing on the field, it was a classy way to demonstrate your dissent. We did that together and it was a statement that all of the players wanted to make.”
For Bennett, who though unnamed was one of the targets of Trump’s words, having his teammates and organization’s support was significant.
“It meant everything,” Bennett said. “It was us coming together beyond football and just recognizing as human beings that it’s something bigger than us. There’s somebody who wins and somebody who loses in football, but at the end of the day, it’s about coming together and collaborating and figuring out how to unite people together. I think as a team we did that today, we showed that we have compassion for each other and we showed what we stand for—we stand for equality. It was pretty exciting to be exciting to be a part of something that was revolutionary as far as the whole NFL, people coming together as one. It didn’t matter our race, it didn’t matter ourpolitics, it didn’t matter our religion, we came together and we united, we showed that we have power as people. That’s what we were doing today, and I think that was super impressive.”
As for the President essentially referring to his mother with a derogatory term, Bennett said, “I was appalled. I think my mom is a beautiful lady. My mom sacrificed for me as a kid, she did a lot for me to be in this position, and I think she raised a great man, not only me, I think she raised a great man in my brother. In this world it’s pretty hard to raise young black men, especially when you’re not seen as being as important as another person in the United States. I think my mom did a great job. She’s a school teacher, she has dedicated over 22 years of her life to school administration, and she works every day with special (education) kids in Houston. That’s what you want as a person, and I think my mom is very good person. I couldn’t believe that he called my mom that, because he doesn’t know her.”
Sherman noted that some of the protests, which started with Colin Kaepernick last year, have been “kind of drowned out by the noise” because some people have been too caught up in the method of protest—the anthem—and not the injustice being protested.
“There is inequality out there, there isn’t liberty and justice for all, and guys for a while, at least a year now, have been protesting that by taking a knee, sitting down, putting up a fist, etcetera, etcetera, but their voices were kind of drowned out by the noise, because people were saying, ‘Oh, you’re kneeling during the anthem,’” Sherman said.
“Guys want to do right by their people, they want to take a stand,” Sherman continued. “They understand that things happening in this world aren’t right, and if we have a platform to make a difference and to make a change and to help millions of lives be better, or at least bring awareness to the situation, then we will.”
“I’m calling on people in our country to realize this is greater than just football, this is greater than just your Sunday evening entertainment,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “It’s bigger than that.
“I want to make sure you all understand that I’m not speaking for everybody in our locker room. I’m speaking from heart personally. These are my thoughts: it’s scary that we have a man in office who was elected to protect our basic rights, and yet he has shown recently the opposite… For us as players, directly being called out about not being able to express ourselves—and many men and women have sacrificed their lives for us to be able to express ourselves in that way, that’s the foundational core of who we are as a country—and for that to be threatened by the man who is at the head of the table for our country, it’s a very serious thing. I hope that that message is loud and clear for anybody who is listening, that they recognize that this is a dangerous time, and we recognize that.
“We’re hoping to unite people of all colors, all races, all religions, all beliefs to come together and realize the severity of the situation. This is our country, what we were founded on was a protest—the Boston Tea Party, that was a protest. I think there’s something to be said to make sure that we protect the sanctity and the importance of individuals in this country being able to express themselves. And I understand it’s a difficult topic to talk about, I understand that we all have our different opinions, we all have our different viewpoints, but that’s what makes our country so great. That’s what makes our country unique and beautiful, that’s why we are where we are, because we don’t always agree. Just getting 63 guys to all agree to do something, that’s difficult within itself, so I can understand how difficult it is for the country. But sometimes I feel like there’s a line that needs to be drawn, and to me the most important thing we can do at this moment is be unified, and not just as a football team, or as the NFL or as a city, as a red state, blue state, but as a country, as a society. Because again, the severity of this situation cannot be understated.”
Players know change won’t be instant or easy, but as athletes who have a platform, they feel now is an important time to speak out against racial injustice.
“We hate the injustice that’s going on, and the only way to fix it is to try to make movements and try to make improvements,” Wilson said. “And we can’t fix it all in a day. The racial tension that has been going on has been for hundreds of years, and it’s really showing up right now, and we can’t ignore it. Ignoring it doesn’t do anything. I know our football team believes in unity and believes in making a difference in our communities and in the world.”