Dan Quinn’s rah-rah, brotherhood rap sometimes can ring a little sophomoric, given that he works in the love-you-today-waive-you-tomorrow, non-guaranteed-contract world of professional football.
“Kumbaya” is not a football fight song.
Wednesday, though, when addressing the anthem demonstrations that have hijacked the NFL discussion all week, the coach’s take was exactly what we all needed to hear. And it was exactly what you’d expect from someone who has made unity a part of the Falcons playbook.
Not a simplistic Twitter take. Not an angry polemic playing to any single base. Nothing that you wouldn’t want a good leader to express.
Saying that he expected every player to stand and lock arms during the anthem Sunday at home against Buffalo – all but defensive lineman Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe did that Sunday in Detroit – Quinn stressed the need for rescuing a single, coherent point from the noise of the last week.
It’s like he understood the importance of messaging. And that there is a way to confront the issues of injustice and peaceful dissent without breaking down into warring tribes.
“I think (the players who knelt) was a one-off for us as a group,” Quinn said, “and our best way to show how solid we are is by showing everything that we do (we do) as a group.”
He then ventured into the sociology of the locker room. Should we believe that this athletic inner sanctum is some Eden removed from the conflict outside its walls? Of course, not. There are as many crackpot viewpoints in there as anywhere. Just as many differences in personality and outlook.
But it is how those with a common goal face those differences that matter now.
So, here’s a football coach in a position of using his team and his platform to issue a statement on respect. Too few others seem to be leading from the high ground.
This isn’t a protest. This is a teaching moment.
Here, the floor is Quinn’s:
“You’ve heard me say that I wish the rest of the world could see our locker room. Matt Ryan, who grew up in Westchester, Pa., and Julio Jones, who grew up in Foley, Ala., didn’t grow up on the same block. I wish they could see how tight they are, and the friendship that they share.
“Although Matt can’t understand and hasn’t lived some of the same experiences, he wants to support players and teammates like crazy. And I really admire that about our team.
“We come from all walks, different spots, different groups and we recognize those differences with each other.
“We talked about it in the team meeting today. I talked about Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman, who grew up in Liberty City, Fla. It couldn’t be the same. But what I can tell you is how connected they are and the love that they have for one another.
“I think that’s really important for the rest of the country to see how it can be. I often have told you how close this group is. ... It’s a real brotherhood that they have, and it’s an example of what it can be. I always think they provide such a unique example for so many people. I’m really proud of who they are.”
Quinn suggested it would be a fine idea if the fans, too, linked arms during the anthem Sunday. Even if you don’t know your neighbor or have not the slightest insight into his or her politics or Facebook posts.
Would it be possible to behave for just a moment as if we could agree on something as pure a hopeful gesture?