There was a moment after the Legion of Boom had dissolved, after Michael Bennett had moved on, after Doug Baldwin and the rest had hung up their cleats, that the Seattle Seahawks became “Bobby Wagner’s defense” at long last.
While his talent was never in question - another Pro Bowl in 2019 has proved that - he was simply less... interesting than the other voices on the Seahawks. Baldwin’s anger, Richard Sherman’s outbursts, Earl Thomas’s whatever-you-want-to-call-it, Michael Bennett on a police bicycle.
Those Seattle teams had a lot of voices.
So too did Wagner and a very good one at that, but it was quieter, at least by comparison, for a few years.
However, this is about the Seahawks’ other Pro Bowl linebacker. The one who’s always listed second, and who has proven to be even less vocal to the media but absolutely no less eloquent.
K.J. Wright, who chimes in on Twitter about once a month, has joined another growing conversation of late.
You have my full support brotha! That flag represents hate, racism, oppression! It’s BEEN TIME for a change. There’s strength in numbers! We all have to be on board https://t.co/2d73tRDEiI— KJ (@KJ_WRIGHT34) June 22, 2020
The past two months of national attention surrounding police procedures, Black Lives Matter, lives lost and protests of response, have also brought into the limelight the use of the Confederate flag. As a native of Mississippi and celebrity alumnus from Mississippi State, Wright’s voice in this matter is significant:
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey threatened to not host any future conference championship events in Mississippi until the state changes its flag.— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) June 19, 2020
Mississippi is the only state that still has the Confederate symbol on its flag. https://t.co/quYMji4Y1T
The fuss about a flag may still seem trivial to some, but it is both an important image to discuss, and representative of the conversations at large. Why a state entity would still use the Confederate symbol as part of its official flag is largely because not enough people cared strongly enough to change it.
By way of example, Wright’s alma mater has already stopped flying the Mississippi state flag - since 2015.
The conversation is not over as in recent days a proposal has surfaced to add a second state flag as opposed to changing the original entirely.
Wright’s words are not purely a reaction to the emotion of the day. As emotional as players like Sherman and Baldwin are and have been, the Seattle Seahawks have not contributed to “cancel culture.” It’s an organization that has long given permission for their athletes to find significance outside the game of football, a truth virtually unspeakable in other franchises.
Last year, Wagner gave an interview about his head coach and mentor. He said Pete Carroll “tried to start helping us with life outside of football, and, what is your purpose? Coming in, you didn’t hear about that, cause, coaches don’t care about your purpose”.
The reality is that “stick to sports” has never been the truth of this particular team under Carroll, nor does it seem appropriate in this day and age. Wright might only be a member of the Seahawks for another year, but he’ll be black his entire life. Carroll has always encouraged his players to be part of the world beyond football, and many have taken the challenge both past and present.
It’s an uncommon sight that a college conference, an NFL player, a collegiate RB, and some universities are throwing their weight into state politics, and will be truly fascinating to see what impact this has on lawmakers.
The state of Mississippi has not yet reached a decision as they remain in deliberations.