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"Going Deep" features KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.

Retired Seahawk Doug Baldwin talks childhood lessons on race, activism

Retired Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin in the KNKX studios
Parker Miles Blohm
Retired Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin in the KNKX Seattle studios this October.

Three years ago, Doug Baldwin announced his retirement from the NFL on Twitter.

The former wide receiver, who went to the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks but left the team after several injuries, penneda letter to his younger self. He wrote that he was about to “endure one hell of a journey,” and would experience physical and emotional pain he "never knew existed.”

KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick interviewed Baldwin this fall, for "Going Deep," a series about what drives individuals tied to sports in our region — as both professionals and people.

She began by asking him about where that journey began—the far western panhandle of Florida at a community center in the back of the Salvation Army where his mother worked.

That’s where, at six years old, Baldwin discovered something magical: People cheer when you catch a ball.

Baldwin was the (then) only son in a mixed-race family living in Pensacola, Florida. Conversations about race and racism were unavoidable. But his parents had different perspectives.

His mother was an “activist in her own right” who once graced the front page of the local paper for protesting a Ku Klux Klan rally.

Baldwin's father was a police officer, who saw himself as a peacemaker and sought to make a difference in the department.

They stood on opposite sides of a question: Do you destroy a system or change it from the inside?

Baldwin, after years of listening, devised his own answer: Yes.

To hear more, click the "Listen" button above. This is part one of a two-part interview.

Interview Highlights

On what Baldwin learned from his parents

Ultimately, I benefited from that conflict because I got to see the conversations in real time. I got to see them navigate decisions that they had to make not only as individuals, but for me and our family as a whole. I think about that struggle now, and I'm just really grateful that they didn't shy away from it.

On how his parents talked through their differences

They knew things needed to be changed. They felt like they had a part in the conversation and they were willing to expose themselves to the vulnerability in that conversation. It was never the animosity between themselves or other folks. It was, 'How do we solve this problem?'

On talking with his father about policing

Obviously my father being [an] officer for 35 years, there's a lot of things that he didn't want to talk about emotionally. He was trying to protect me, but also himself. Like there's just a lot of trauma there that he couldn't really dive deep into. But he shared with me a lot of stories during that time that I think were productive for me to hear. And then now, as an adult, he shares with me more things that as he's navigating this phase of his life and he's really reflecting and understanding the things that he went through. He's sharing more of that with me, too.

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Vivian McCall is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host. She previously spent eight years as a reporter in Chicago, where she wrote for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ public radio.