An 'epiphany' after Trump's comments sparked surprising Seahawks protest leader

Given the full range of the Seahawks' roster, picking one player to lead a national anthem protest would not be easy. Michael Bennett is the obvious choice, but Richard Sherman could just as likely front the push for the entire team to stay in the locker room. 

So it is surprising to learn it was Russell Wilson who helped inspire the Seahawks' pregame decision on Sunday

Sherman, who spoke with Robert Klemko of after the game, said Wilson had an "epiphany" after hearing President Donald Trump call NFL players who protested by kneeling "sons of b----es."

"He had an epiphany of sorts when he saw the Trump comments," Sherman said. "Something changed in his mind. He was ready to kneel, sit, whatever needed to be done. He was ready to go there for his teammates and for the greater good, and you're not seeing that out of the premier quarterbacks in this league."

Wilson is a surprising player to lead such a protest, not because of his sensibilities. He has shown that he cares very much about society as a whole, and he routinely spends a lot of his time volunteering at a children's hospital. But Wilson is also buttoned up a bit. He doesn't always push the boundaries and has typically stayed between the mustard and the mayonnaise when it comes to his approach to public relations. 

Additionally, as Sherman noted, Wilson is a quarterback. Although Colin Kaepernick helped start the movement to kneel during the anthem, we have not seen many quarterbacks take part in the protests. There were plenty of them taking part Sunday, but hearing that Wilson helped to lead the charge for Seattle was a shock.

"It was a surprise, I think even for him," Sherman said. 

Wilson said the comments from Trump were "sad to see" and that the issue of human relations is being "taken lightly." 

"It was sad to see that," Wilson said of Trump's comments. "There are so many guys across the league who want to do good things and do do good things ... without aggression and peacefully. It was sad to see that. You think about people who have gone through stuff, from Michael Bennett to people across the country. It's a serious issue and it can't be taken lightly, and I feel like honestly it's being taken lightly. I think we have to be able to show love to make a difference in the world. I think it starts at the top and it starts in our communities, too."

Sunday's full slate of NFL games featured a host of statements on unity from around the league, starting with the Ravens and Jaguars in London on Sunday morning. Like the Seahawks and Titansthe Steelers also stayed on the locker room during the anthemSupporters of the president turned their back on him following the comments in Alabama, which have been called "divisive" by just about every single NFL team..

Colleague Ryan Wilson put together a team-by-team breakdown of all the protests here.

The decision to stay in the locker room was hardly an easy one: Klemko reported the Seahawks "debated for an hour" on Saturday morning about how to handle the situation before engaging in extended talks with coaches on Saturday afternoon.

"We wanted to do something as a team. Last year we did something, we locked arms," Wilson said. "Then we wanted to figure out, how can we do something as a whole team to show that the injustice in America needs to be fixed."

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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