SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Once perceived as fierce rivals on the football field, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Seattle Seahawks have found plenty of common ground as Kaepernick's protest of racial inequality and oppression has gained momentum over the past month.
Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said Wednesday that no friction ever existed between the two sides beyond the score on a football field.
"Well, you [the media] painted that," Baldwin said. "Nobody looked at anybody as an enemy, so to speak. This is just our job. It's our occupation, so we had no ill will toward Kaepernick in any way. It hasn't changed because it was never negative in the first place."
In fact, Kaepernick and Baldwin have been engaged in what Baldwin called "extensive conversations" intent on exchanging ideas about what the next step beyond the silent protest during the national anthem will be and how they can follow through on helping communities in need.
Baldwin, who played collegiately at nearby Stanford, did not know Kaepernick much on a personal level until after Kaepernick began sitting and then kneeling during the national anthem in the preseason. Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane soon followed suit by sitting during the anthem, and Baldwin was part of team leadership that organized a show of unity before the first game of the regular season when the Seahawks locked arms during "The Star-Spangled Banner."
As others in the NFL and across the country began joining the movement, Baldwin and Kaepernick connected via retired receiver Ricardo Lockette, a mutual friend who used to play for Seattle and San Francisco.
Baldwin was immediately struck by Kaepernick's passion for the issues.
"He's a very intellectual human being," Baldwin said. "He's very intelligent, very thoughtful and very passionate, obviously. I didn't know him as a person. I only knew him as a football player. But, obviously, getting to speak to him and getting to know him a little bit more, you can tell he has got a lot of depth to him."
Baldwin credits Kaepernick for standing up for what he believes in and sparking a much-needed conversation, even though he knew the risks that would come with it.
"It's not just the NFL landscape, it's across the country right now," Baldwin said. "Obviously, we wouldn't be having this conversation if it wasn't for him bringing it to light. So he's stood on the table and shouted and got everybody's attention. And now we have to work on the follow-through collectively."
To that end, Baldwin said he and his teammates have planned some other potential opportunities to make a statement and figure out ways to ensure that the issues they're focused on continue to be front and center.
"Yes, we do, and the impact that we anticipate is just to continue the conversation, first and foremost," Baldwin said. "We're already focused on our follow-through and things that we're going to do in our communities and here in Seattle to try to get as much knowledge as we can and see how impactful we can be in our own communities. We'll see what happens and go from there."
Doug Baldwin, Colin Kaepernick discuss next step after anthem protests