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South Puget Sound City Joins Fray Over Athlete Anthem Protests

JSSWA Washington National Guard
Flickr -
File photo of flag presentation before Seattle Seahawks game in 2014.

A South Puget Sound city has joined the fray over athletes protesting during the national anthem. The mayor of DuPont, Washington, scrubbed a planned Seahawks pep rally Saturday ahead of the Seattle team's home opener.

DuPont is a growing bedroom community next to Joint Base Lewis-McChord with a population approaching 10,000. Mayor Mike Courts previously served for 30 years in the Army. He said he doesn't know what sort of protest or display the Seahawks players may make on Sunday. But he’s concerned townspeople could take offense.

"The rally was postponed because I can't see officially celebrating an activity that potentially hurts many members of my community,” Courts said Friday.

Courts said his executive decision drew strong reactions to city hall right away.

"It's about 50-50,” he said. “I am either the spawn of Satan or their hero, one of the two."

Seahawks players past and present took to Twitter on Friday to say the gesture they're planning will be a display of unity that honors flag and country.

Courts said he's prepared possibly to look "silly" after Sunday. "I'm not a winner in this no matter what I do," the retired colonel said. "I've got thick skin. I can deal with that."

Courts added the postponed rally could be rescheduled if the Seahawks players behave in a unifying or respectful way.

The player demonstrations began when San Francisco ‘49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to protest a country that “oppresses black people and people of color.”

Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshal, and 49ers safety Eric Reid followed suit in subsequent preseason games, refusing to stand during the anthem. Concern about the Seahawks demonstration has been intensified by the fact that the team’s season-opener takes place on the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In the DuPont park where the third annual civic Seahawks rally would have taken place late Saturday morning, mom Kelsey Wilkening said she understood where the mayor was coming from.

“We live in a community that is super-patriotic and patriotic for good reason,” Wilkening said. “As a civilian that lives in a context of military families I really struggle with the choice that players are making to not stand,” Wilkening continued. “I respect our mayor’s decision.”

Wilkening said her family came to last year’s well-attended Seahawks pep rally.

The NFL's Seahawks were not party to the rally planning.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.