In the unyielding avalanche over several days of video, news and opinion about the rage against police, economic collapse, a failing U.S. administration and a pandemic that seems certain to rally back — while we strain absurdly to re-start major American sports — a single remark spoke to the gravity of the moment.
As he stood on the Minneapolis street Wednesday where four policemen casually murdered George Floyd last week, Tim Walz, the governor of Minnesota, offered CNN something trenchant.
“I don’t think we get another chance to fix this; I really don’t,” he said. “I don’t think that’s hyperbole.”
For me, the statement paused the avalanche.
I can’t be sure — who is sure of anything these days? — but it sounded right. Until we can come up with a direction that draws protesters and police off the streets, reducing the mass increase in targets freshly available to the coronavirus, while pursuing competent, compassionate leadership that understands racism’s pernicious virality and venality, we risk being buried alive.
A small sign of the urgency came a couple of hours later in the despairing ramble of Russell Wilson. On a Zoom conference from his home in Los Angeles with Seattle reporters after the Walz interview, the Seahawks’ fountain of perpetual optimism couldn’t talk ball.
“I don’t even want to talk about football right now,” he said. “I don’t even know what that looks like down the road, or anything else. I think none of that matters.
“I can’t compare football to life, and what what black communities are going through right now.”
In a word, Wilson was morose.
“It’s staggering to watch these things happen right in front of our faces,” he said. “I have a heavy heart right now. In my opinion, there’s a lot of hate in America, a lot of division.
“Police brutality is staggering, and honestly, it’s not something I understand fully . . . I don’t have all the answers sometimes. Being black is a real thing and, in America, the history and the pain . . . even my own family, my great-great grandparents were slaves. Racism is heavier than ever.”
Wilson talked of the small indignities common to people of color. He recalled as a boy his father warning him at gas stations not to to put his hands in his pockets. Of walking into a store fearful of being accused of stealing; “a terrifying thought,” he said.
Not long after winning the Super Bowl in 2014, he was in line at a California restaurant and was told by an older white man behind him, “That’s not for you.”
Wilson said he told the man, “I don’t appreciate you speaking to me that way.
“He kind of walked off, but in that little glimpse . . . Even though it didn’t turn into something, what if it did?”
Little things? Sure. For those who may have missed it, Floyd was being investigated for passing a counterfeit $20 bill. We’ll never know if he knew it was fake.
In his eight seasons in Seattle, we’ve seen Wilson overcome formidable odds again and again. But this is different. This is a cultural crisis of a breadth and depth that Wilson has not seen in his 31 years. The collection of calamities is unprecedented for those who are older.
Tuesday, a podcast by Steve Kerr — three NBA championships as a Bulls player, three as Golden State Warriors coach — and co-host Pete Carroll called Flying Coach on The Ringer, invited San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (five NBA titles) to join for a discussion of the American grimness.
It’s an hour worthy of your time. Together they have 12 pro championships, and Carroll had a college championship at USC. They have had great success in the only high-profile industries in the U.S. employing a labor force in which African Americans are a majority.
Carroll obviously understood Wilson’s despair directly, and implicitly the existential warning from Walz.
“We can’t live with an oblivious way of looking at this,’’ Carroll said of the racial divide. “We can’t do that. It’s the privilege that white people have, living obliviously to what is going on. That ain’t OK. And so I’m trying to convey that to our guys that they see it that way. That we are trying to learn from each other and move ahead together.
“The problem lies in the white communities not responding and the awareness not being adequate enough to see, hear, feel the indiscretions that have happened . . . (That) our consciences don’t allow us to do anything but respond’’ reflexively.
That is what we see these days in the streets. As we saw in earlier years in Baltimore, Ferguson, Los Angeles, Washington, Newark, Brooklyn, Watts, Detroit, etc. For all the uprisings, the backstory is that this land has been a place for the scourge of slavery for longer than it has been without it.
Even after the Civil War ended the legal fact of slavery that began in 1619, it took a century until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Yet here we are, 58 years later — 28 years after Rodney King was nearly beaten to death by four Los Angeles policemen, who were acquitted by a jury.
We joined a shocked world watching a white authority figure armed not only with a gun but with impunity, audacity, criminality and nonchalance, asphyxiate a handcuffed black man in daylight on a public street with cameras recording the deed, including the audio of Floyd’s repetitive final pleadings: “I can’t breathe.”
Four hundred years, and this ghastly moment is what we have to show for progress?
Remember in the Pledge of Allegiance that claim about liberty and justice for all? We’re still in the early innings.
Keeping to the historical sweep, Kerr said a national reckoning of racial history is overdue.
“I think probably the thing that has to be done before anything is an understanding and an awareness that there needs to be a reconciliation, an admission of guilt,” he said. “I don’t think it should be — this is not a message of, ‘Hey, all you white people, you should feel guilty; this is your fault.’ That’s not the point.
“But this is the way our country is. It’s our responsibility to admit that this is what’s going on in our country, and let’s truly examine our past.”
The big picture is hard to see when almost every minute, our eyes are bombarded with chaos and our ears with cacophony. But the three coaches have lived long enough to see such social convulsions produce worthy outcomes.
Popovich offered up how drunk driving was a more or less a tolerated behavior until the national campaign by Mothers Against Drunk Driving rose up to grab the nation’s leaders by the figurative neck and shook out significant national legislation that made drunk drivers “pariahs,” he said.
In the 1960s, a years-long national uprising against the Vietnam War forced President Lyndon Johnson from office and eventually helped drag home the battered American war machine from its futility.
Among the movements, differences are many and solutions imperfect. Yet the nation ended up better off even when gloom seemed impervious and unending.
It is, however, urgent, as Walz observed. The 400-year contest within the American conscience is down to a two-minute drill.
Thank you, Art. Brilliantly put. I have come to the realization that maybe Dr. King and Gandhi were wrong about non-violence. Or rather, they were the only ones who seemed to be able to make that work in the short term. And Dr. King, well, his life was ended in a nakedly violent act. We are a country that was borne from violence against the British and baked slavery into the constitution. Nuclear violence ended World War II in the Japanese theater less than a decade after British pacifism (Chamberlain) enabled a Holocaust. The single absurd and violent act of 19 Saudis in 2001 changed a host of details that define how we live today. One could even argue that the virus is an act of cold, detached violence that has caused us to fight each other. But what may have hurt the cause most of all might be tolerant white people taught to accept an unjust peace over a potentially dangerous path to equality.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
John F. Kennedy
Gandhi was also assassinated. It takes braver souls than most of us to take a moral stand that could cost you your life.
From winning the Super Bowl to discrimination by a restaurant patron? I still can’t comprehend this.
Sometimes the small truths linger long too.
I regret to inform Minnesota’s governor that this final chance for a fix is not going to happen, because the “fix” is in, i.e. Trump wants a civil war.
Let’s hope he is thwarted at “want.”
Good luck with that.
The diminishing of violence and looting in the protests may provide a lessened target. But that won’t keeping him from ginning up an excuse.
I don’t believe Trump cares as much about race as he does about the inequality of wealth. I think he believes in the privilege $$$ affords those who have it and the power that comes with it.
I don’t think race is near as big an issue for him. All the “Life” happening on the streets of of the USA isn’t his life. It’s that way for 99% of all the privileged rich.
Trump only cares about himself. Like the old joke. An attractive young woman gets on an elevator with Trump. The doors close. The woman says to Trump, “I could you give you the best blowjob you’ve ever had right now.” To which Trump replies, “But what’s in it for me?”
I don’t know if he is racist but he is definitely classist, meaning if you too have money or a platform he can use to stoke his oversized ego, he doesn’t care what race you are. This is why you seem him in pictures with Jesse Jackson and Sharpton along with others. He knew he would get publicity and that is all he craves. Well that and money.
When it comes to using people and institutions for personal gains legal and illegal, it’s true. He doesn’t discriminate.
Kerr was also part of 2 championship teams with the Spurs, becoming one of 3 players to win 2 titles with 2 teams. He wins wherever he goes it seems. I’ll never forget seeing the Wildcats at ASU and the student taunting Kerr with chants of “PLO” and “Where’s your dad?” His father was assassinated in Beirut when he was president of American University. Kerr scored 20 and torched the Sun-Devils hitting all six of his attempted 3 pointers. Been a fan since.
The country was shocked at the video of Rodney King’s beating at the hands of the police and outraged when the policemen involved were acquitted. The reaction was so strong that President Bush invoked using the Insurrection Act to dispatch the National Guard to Los Angeles to quell the rioting. Actual rioting, not a peaceful march.
It’s sad but not surprising that the country has all but forgotten what the King beatings have taught. Heck, I remember after the 9-11 tragedy seeing people f different race, creed, color being hand in hand helping one another and Republicans, Democrats and other political affiliations also being hand in hand. Months later all was forgotten. Human history shows it’s our nature to live in the moment and forget what was left behind.
I read how Coach Carroll let the players have an open forum on their Monday Zoom session. Reading comments by other coaches (Vic Fangio among others) about current events the Seahawks should count their blessings that the have a coach who gives then such an opportunity. I get where Russ is coming from. It’s pretty hard to think about one’s regular routine right now. The pandemic, murder hornets, the SSN fraud scheme and now all this. I’m waiting for frogs to rain down from the skies upon us.
Carroll manages matters of conscience and race about as well as any pro coach.
The murder hornet they found in Whatcom was a mated queen. Sigh.
Damn it. I live in Whatcom.
Me too. It was found near Custer, between Ferndale and Blaine. That’s the second one found in that area.
Amazing what we learn here at SPNW.
The Kerr episode at ASU was one of the lowest points in public fan behavior in my memory. I so wanted to engage in a Three Stooges-style group slap of those sun-kissed smartasses.
Fangio and Drew Brees are two steps back for the NFL.
The student body at ASU drove him to tears as he played and it just egged them on. And I thought Duke fans were bad. I’ve always been disappointed that no one stopped the game and told the students to knock it off and grow up. Former Bengals coach Sam Wyche would have.
Two weapons needed for every big-time athletics program: Shaming and expulsion.
It’s a sad reality of life, but racism is in every country – The US, in my experience, is much better than the countries I have been in and have experienced it first hand. Have you been to China as a non-Chinese? Japan as a non-Japanese? South Korea? Tahiti? France? All countries I have experienced racism, and I am white.
The world’s countries are generally very homogeneous – The US is one of the very few countries that has populations of a significant size that are racially different.
Two examples come to mind that stunned me:
Paris: We were traveling and wanted to see all the sites. I asked a Parisian to help me with a map and pointed out an area. The reply was: “That’s all Muslim, don’t go there. Even the police don’t go there”.
Tahiti, an absolute beautiful country: We were waiting to play tennis and the Chinese players ball went into the French players court. Courtesy says after your point is over to fetch the other courts ball and toss it back. The French simply kept playing, not to bother. The Chinese eventually got their ball after the French left. The French don’t like anyone that’s Chinese.
Good F’ing luck integrating in a Middle Eastern country, let alone stay alive, if you are not of their culture.
I am not trying to gloss over the lousy situation we have here, but as a white guy whose 2 of my best friends are black and were in my wedding, I do have perspective possibly others do not. Does the US suffer from racism? Yes. I would suggest those who have not traveled try it on for size – the locals are pleasant, but don’t even attempt to integrate.
Oh, and yes, they all have their own slang for “whites”, and “foreigners” and they are not complimentary.
As for the cops, ALL departments should be required to be tested for testosterone and HGH – A lot of these guys are amped up and as a result are much too far on the edge. Take away these and police violence will decrease, guaranteed.
…or being a Hou’lie in Hawaii.
“Kill Dems? Now that’s actually intelligent! Start with the hag in Congress!” Your own words from a few days back. You don’t sound like one cool guy to me…you sound pretty amped up a lot of the time. Hope you’re not a cop.
I’ve traveled enough, including nine Olympics, to say that your anecdotes are probably true. But I can probably provide 10 episodes of unexpected kindnesses from locals to a bewildered or exhausted traveler for every bad moment. I try to remember that whenever I trip over an international tourist at Pike Place.
Oneguy, you’re back again to whataboutism. You seek to diminish words and deeds you dislike by finding a more odious comparative. I do believe that perspective is worthy, but sometimes words and deeds are so outrageous that they stand alone as worthy of our contempt.
I agree with you about PEDs in cop shops. The pro football world is a little less crazy because of testing, although cheating has become more sophisticated.
Thank You Art! An article well done.
There’s so much that needs to happen to purge racism from the veins of our country, which is way overdue. I think we need to start with mandatory education in schools, and include related subjects such as the holocaust and native Americans. These events and related attitudes/beliefs must be never forgotten, and actively pursued.
White adults need to continue to be educated. As more shocking stories are coming out, hopefully our brothers and sisters of color see that there is a more than willing audience of support. Change won’t be able to happen overnight. Those that legislate need to champion and formulate something that the American people can grab on to and show our support for.
As whites, we desperately need a way of showing support to all of our brothers and sisters of color, and we need not to be afraid to do so. If there is a ribbon to wear, I’ll get that sucker tattooed – which would be my first!
Telling serious truths about our country’s history to adults would be a start. The NY Times took a stab at it:
But, the reality of that, Thiel, has been that when “truth telling” about our specific experience as it relates to “our country’s history”, we (black people) are far too often met with knee-jerk and backwards reactionary responses of “stop complaining” from whites who just straight-up do NOT want to hear it.
Undoubtedly true. So tell the truth to their kids. Never stop.
Thanks – excellent read. Well, almost excellent. Very disappointing to see that I may have a very different perspective about our country’s foundation when I’m done reading. Wool over the eyes coming off….
Are black and brown people treated cruelly in Europe, Asia, the Middle East aynd South America?
Is it time police training includes ten times as many hours studying the constitution, the law of the land, than is spent on weapons training and take downs?
Growing up in St Louis, police walked their beats, knew every child and parent on the block, and were there to protect and serve, armed only with a billy club.
Whose idea was it to arm the constables on patrol with fast cars, high powered rifles, pistols and immunity from prosection for the murders they commit?
It is time we end the drug war so cops can walk their beats again, armed only with billy clubs, and the people of North and South America can live in peace. Again.
It is time we all take a knee until this happens.
The drug wars are the result of the insatiable desire Americans have to obtain and consume drugs. It’s supply and demand.
Discrimination and racism have a long history worldwide, dictated largely by income disparity. The days of unarmed cops walking beats is so Mayberry RFD, where there were no poor people.
UBI is so important. Those that get work and do work get their UBI and their paychecks. All is well.
American capitalism is reform resistant.
The sheer number of guns in this country — more than there are people — would make policing without guns impossible. British police can get away with just billy clubs because there are far fewer guns there.
Now, arming cops with bazookas, flamethrowers and tanks is another kettle of fish.
Key point about our civilian gun population.
Wow. This is some kind of breakthrough here. When Russell Wilson does not even want to TALK about football, at all, you know it’s serious. And that is not a joke. I wonder what his old teammates think of this…
A threshold has been crossed. On so many levels, the tableau of the Floyd murder — casual, public, pointless, recorded, in a time federally accepted bigotry — will be one of the most significant turning points in American, and world, history. Nobody stays oblivious.
I hope you are right, Art. This last three + years, though, has featured so many damn points that should have been turning…but were lost in the blizzard created by those that came before and after. So nothing turned.
Very well said, Art. In a country founded on greed, extracted from the labor of enslaved African people and the stealing and attempted extermination of indigenous people in a grab for more and more land is this nation’s history. The 400 years of oppression that the people of African ancestry have suffered combined with crushing economic inequality and culminating in the election of someone like a Donald Trump has many scholars believing that the United States, at least as an empire, is in the final stages of it’s existence. What comes out of that could either be a more just and equitable society or an authoritarian nation based on order at all costs. The George Floyd murder is another example of state sanctioned murder in the history of the United States.
We are at a tipping point unique in American history — pandemic, massive unemployment and racial divisions spiked by a heinous public murder. The permutations for outcomes are many. My most fervent hope is that we have an election.
A great fear I have is the white supremacists with AK-47s mounting their own “revolution” after the election. Think they will just meekly slink back into their bunkers without a shot? I don’t think so.
You’re not alone, Howie. They won’t be discouraged by our president.
Seen the video of those white gun holders lined up alongside a protest in Indiana recently? It’s legal, but we all know that would likely not have been tolerated by law enforcement if the roles were reversed by ethnicity.
What good is an election when the working class of all races have no one to vote for that will support them? All the nominating is done by and with Big $$$. We (The working class) can’t even vote for the lesser of 2 evils because both parties are run by big $$$. Republicans have always been and dems have taken hold of green $$$ and far left wacko people who have lost touch with reality. Yep,, far to political but the system is broken. We all have freedom of speech unless we say something politically incorrect or what may (Doesn’t have to be meant that way) be considered disrespectful. Sometimes the truth will hurt. But the truth can’t be spoken or you will get fired. It’s good to see people getting fed up but are they getting fed up with the right stuff? (Or enough stuff)
What’s the right stuff, BB? What you prefer? The truth to you may be a lie to someone else.
We’ve always had disagreements over these things. We also have a Constitution that offered the rules of our chosen road. What we’ve never had before is a president with no respect for the Constitution nor the rule of law.
Or little interest in public service. Even those who vehemently disagreed with (bipartisan here) Obama and George W. understood that those presidents were doing what they thought was best for the country, and in the immediate moments after a tragedy sought to lead and comfort the whole of the nation. When a crisis hits, Trump immediately picks sides instead of reaching out to a shaken nation.
He has no idea he’s a civil servant.
Very true Art. Trump is very Non Presidential. I look back at elections and I haven’t really ever been happy with our choices of who to cast our vote for. The truth for me is what I see. It may not be the same for others and I really wish I was wrong but I don’t think I am.
We live in a country where we have a right and obligation to peacefully protest. We live at a time where there is no place to hide from the video camera. We are a hand held phone away from all the information in the world. Society is the more educated now than it has ever been. Heck,, just student loan debt tells us that.
How many generations ago has it been since it was scientifically proven that no race is better than another? We are of 1 race. The human race. Yet,, racism never goes away. We of the human race potentially can do so much better.
Art. I appreciate your wisdom and your talent. You have many admirers but what’s more have earned our trust. You work in a venue where you not only can still tell the truth it is expected of you. We who read your words know we get that. It has been proven over the years.
However, a politician speaks as much as they can but to say as little as possible. I guess it’s a gift. I’m not gifted.
You made my day, BB46. Make that two days. It’s 12:30a.
Indeed, having an election is something we should not be taking for granted. I’d go one step further and say the election itself is likely to be a chaotic time, and that the big battle may be ensuring that the rightful winner is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
I think the Minneapolis cops assured that the chaos has an early start.
I find it dangerous to post now, for fear that I will– with the intentions of peace and justice— somehow say the wrong thing. I believe that Drew Brees and Alan Hinton had good intentions.
As someone once said, good intentions are no excuse for bad judgment, or bad execution. Case in point, Darrell Bevell and the play that can’t be unseen.
So many well-intended remarks from we white folks become loud clanks upon ears abused by intended slurs.
It is important, as this discussion progresses, to remember its begininnings and the ultimate understandings:
1. Police have no right to kill American citizens. Did good police work go away upon the death of Sherlock Holmes? Bonnie and Clyde could have been taken alive with good police work. There is no scenario where killing American citizens by police is ok.
2. It is 100% inappropriate for Police in riot gear armed with AK47’s to show up at a peaceful demonstration. It is the police who are creating the riots.
3. It is time to stand down the police and end the militarization of the police.
4. It is time to stand down the military and national guard.
5. We have the right to protest to seek redress of grievance, whether Policemen and women, Police Union Leaders, Police Chief, Governors, Senators, Congressmen, Presidents, the Supreme and lower courts like it or not.
Here is the Law:
First Amendment. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Just gotta say, three cheers for Art Thiel! Pretty cool that he will engage with us all on these big issues, try to be constructive, and maintain his Art-esque humor. Not to be taken for granted. Thanks, Art!
Many thanks for the post and we need to be thankful we can read Mr. Art’s output. Many folks try to write but fail and Mr. Art’s writing is always on a higher level.
I am a broken record on this, but the old Seattle P-I had several newspaper guys of Mr. Art’s quality and I miss them.
I miss them as well. A fine crew.
Notice that MYNW closed their comments section across ALL their platforms? Since MYNW and SPNW both use Disqus, we’ll see how long it takes for the peanut gallery and usual suspects to find their way over to here.
Hadn’t seen that. I’ve been heartened by the civil and respectful, albeit heated, conversations with most commenters. I know why some sites shut it down. I try to be tolerant as the civic pressure grows on all of us.
I can’t say I’m surprised. It had gotten ugly over there at least a year or 2 ago. I actually avoided it for the last week since I already knew that what I’d find would only be the same as it already had been, but on steroids. It must’ve gotten REALLY dark if they decided to yank it off the table completely. Even at KIRO/ESPN.
Hope i am not alone in longing for the days of good journalism and by line reporters proud of their work. You are a mainstay of the craft.
To make your head a little bigger, here is what I tell friends and acquaintances when encouraging them to frequent sportspressNW.com. “Seahawk Players read him, Seahawk owners, managers and coaches read him, the Patriots and Packers read him, the Yankees and Mariners read him because they know if Art Thiel says it, you can believe it.”
The PI was the best paper in town..competing well with the San Francisco Chronicle at the time.
Here we are, decades later. Art Thiel is still standing. The PI is history and the Chronicle has fallen into boring disrepair.
Those were the good old days.
You give us the taste for quality writing filled with facts, insight and often belly laughing, knee slapping, forehead clapping good humor. So much fun. Thank you.
In some degree we as a society are mostly past truly overt racism and dealing with its implicit assumptions. That’s much harder. A white person can have no explicit feelings of racial hatred and thus believe he is not a racist. But if he carries racial stereotypes around in his head and acts upon them, that’s racist behavior.
An example: the two black cornerbacks recently arrested in Miami and accused of robbery. The official story is bizarre and deserving of skepticism. But most whites automatically believe the cops. Why? Because the defendants are black and the behavior fits a certain black stereotype. But what if the defendants had been Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski? Then nobody would believe the cops’ story. Why? Different racial stereotype.
The Drew Brees episode is also instructive. Brees is basically a decent, well-meaning guy. But Brees is a white celebrity. And his implicit sense of white privilege gave him permission to dismiss the pain of the black community and mouth off self-righteously about black protesters. Now he’s sorry, truly so from all appearances. But his unthinking stereotypical response has caused his reputation great damage. Suddenly, retirement may be looking a lot more attractive to him.
Someone smarter than me said racism is like dust, hanging in the air, invisible, until light passes through it.
As we saw in earlier years in Baltimore, Ferguson, Los Angeles, Washington, Newark, Brooklyn, Watts, Detroit, etc.
And what do all these cities have in common with regards to political leadership? Hint: It’s not Donald J. Trump.
True. No one can accuse Trump of leadership.
Good one! Someone remembered that Drumpfh is President. A different thought exercise: Reagan addressed the nation after the shuttle blew up. The first Bush addressed the nation after Saddam invaded Kuwait. George W Bush addressed the nation after 9/11. Clinton becalmed the nation after Oklahoma City, Obama, unscripted, sang “Amazing Grace” from the pulpit at that one church after Dylan Roof executed the 9 Bible study participants. So what did everybody have in common?
Nothing for Drumpfh–he tweeted something. So congratulations on . . . well . . . something. Whatever.
He said stirring things about our brave Revolutionary War soldiers taking back our airports from the Brits.