Quandre Diggs on NFL's Reaction to Racial Issues: 'Everybody Wants to Put the Eggs Back in the Basket'
2016 was a different time in the NFL.
Although it was only four years ago, the league had a starkly different stance on perceived racism: it's best not to get involved in racial controversies.
During the 2016 season, Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem to honor Black Americans who lost their lives to police brutality. The Washington Redskins proudly kept their name, despite decades of criticism and a dedicated subplot on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. President Donald Trump told Kaepernick he should "find a country that works better for him" and went so far as to say that the NFL should have suspended him for kneeling.
After the 2016 season, Kaepernick was released by the 49ers and the 2013 NFC Champion has not been employed in the NFL since. The league did not explicitly encourage teams to sign him, nor did they publicly stand in solidarity with his message.
Meanwhile, notoriously defiant Redskins owner Dan Snyder has held onto the deeply offensive team name for nostalgia's sake, claiming that Redskins fans understand the "great tradition" of the name. Snyder said the following in 2013: "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER—you can use caps."
"I think it's just a reaction to what's happening," the Seahawks star safety remarked. "Nobody wants to look like they're against what's going on in the country. I think if you really felt that strongly about it, you would have done it four years ago when you understood Kaep's message four years ago."
Diggs believes that Kaepernick took one for the team and he deserves to be on a roster more than some starting NFL quarterbacks.
"I just think Kaep took a major hit, a lot of blow back, and we kind of swept it under the rug," Diggs said. "I think he was definitely getting black-balled—can't tell me he's not better than some of these starting quarterbacks in the league. I'm just going to be honest with you, he's definitely better than a few starters, a handful of starters in the NFL. I truly believe that."
Diggs also remained critical of why the Redskins have retained their name for so long without NFL condemnation, and why they are suddenly motivated to change it now.
"I also think, why didn't the Redskins get the same blow back that Kaep's getting?" Diggs stated. "They've been having this derogatory name for so long, but you've got to wait until Nike pulled their merchandise off the site, FedEx says that they don't want to sponsor one of the owners, you know what I mean?
"Why have they not been getting this negative blow back in the past, but as soon as Kaep does something, he kind of gets the rift of it? I think it's kind of a reaction to what's going on now, and everybody wants to try to put the eggs back in the basket really quick."
Despite the motivations behind these political shifts, Diggs remains focused on what he can do to continue fighting the injustice and inequality many Black Americans still face.
"I've got to continue to keep the message going every day. I've got to continue to put something on my social media. Someway, somehow, I've got to continue to speak out, I've got to continue to help my community. I've got to continue to go back home, help my young kids grow up the right way, I've got to continue to preach to people on voting. I've got to continue to educate myself on what to vote for and who to vote for, who to vote against."
"I think one thing we all have to do is look into the mirror and look at ourselves and see: are we doing the best thing that we can do to keep this thing going, and doing the best thing to help this world out and better ourselves as a country?"
The league may be reckoning with racism this summer, but the Seahawks organization has been making sure players have the platform they need to speak their mind. Over the past several years, coach Pete Carroll has brought in speakers and facilitated team-building and conversations about racism and inequality, creating an adamantly anti-racist culture in the Seattle locker room.
"Pete has given us the floor," Diggs said. "When we were in Zoom meetings, he gave us the floor... I think every day, we were able to have the floor and talk and speak freely on what we wanted to talk about. Our position coaches made it comfortable for us to talk about stuff that's going on in America. Our position coaches, our coordinators, Pete, they made it real comfortable for us to talk about certain things."
"We were able to get a lot of things off our chests. We were able to speak on the George Floyd situation: we were able to speak on the protests, the police brutality, so it's been good. I've seen a lot of teams that have been able to do that, and I think it's good that we're able to have those conversations in this day and age."
While the league continues to learn how to support its Black athletes, they could take a page from the Seahawks playbook: let the players have the floor to speak their minds and take the time to actually listen to initiate change and promote equality for all.