Doug Baldwin Jr. on the mental health of athletes, working for social justice with the Players Coalition, and bringing empathy to humanity.

Alan Cassinelli
Aug 28 · 28 min read
Photo via Crosscut

The Superbowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler joins Brian Berger on Sports Business Radio.

BRIAN: Joining us now on the Blinder guest line is Doug Baldwin, Jr., you can find him on Twitter @DougBaldwinJr and you can also find the Players Coalition on Twitter @playerscoalition.

Doug Baldwin, Jr., graduated from Stanford University before signing with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2011. During his eight-year career, he won a Super Bowl and played in two Pro Bowls. He led the NFL in touchdown receptions in 2015 most notably, Baldwin is a board member of the Players Coalition. He’s a 2018 Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award finalist and he was selected the 2013 Seahawks Man of the Year for his extraordinary leadership and service in the community.

Well, Doug, thanks for joining me on Sports Business Radio. I love athletes who are eloquent and candid as well as who roll up their sleeves and get involved with the issues facing our community. You’ve done both. I really appreciate you joining me here today.

DOUG: Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.

BRIAN: So, I want to start with this. You had an eight-year NFL career as an undrafted free agent and I want to read you two quotes from the quarterbacks, who played most often with you in college and the NFL. In 2013, Andrew Luck said, “Doug plays with two chips on his shoulders.” And then, Russell Wilson, tweeted out when you retired earlier this year, “Greatest competitor I’ve ever known. Mr. Always Open. Grateful for who you are as a player, a teammate and a man. Thanks, Doug Baldwin, Jr.” Doug, where does your competitive spirit and that chip on your shoulder come from?

DOUG: That’s a loaded question. Um, I think that when you incorporate my childhood and things and experiences that have gone through, you know, it’s that, that argument between nature and nurture, right? It’s gotta be some bit of genetics, but it’s also gotta be the environment you grew up in. And I think that just the experiences that have gone through in life, it kinda compels me to be very passionate, when I’m competitive and when I’m in a competitive environment. So, and it holds true for everything. Whether I’m playing football or I’m playing ping pong, I gotta win.

BRIAN: [laughs]

DOUG: Just something I lived with.

BRIAN: You played in two Super Bowls and you came up big in the biggest moments throughout your football career. Like Russell Wilson said, “Mr. Always Open.” You always found a way to make the big catch when it mattered most. When you look back on your NFL career, what are the moments that mean the most to you?

DOUG: You know, it’s odd that you say that because a lot of the actual football plays on the field — they, you know, they come and go, they’re not the greatest memory holders. What I can say is the memories I have with my teammates on and off the field — you know, those memories probably stand out the most. And quite honestly, the things that I’ll miss the most about the league. Yeah, I can’t pinpoint one thing. I will say just, hanging out with the guys off the field, just getting to know them as people and the background stories where they’ve come from. You know, the joys that they’ve experienced, the struggles that experienced, just getting to know them on a human level. I think those are the things that stand out to me the most and I’m going to remember the most.

BRIAN: Yeah, that Seahawks team seems like such a close-knit bunch, both on offense and defense and, you guys had such great success. But it seemed like from afar, I was never in your locker room, but it seemed like you guys genuinely liked each other and you know, probably hung out off the football field as well.

DOUG: Yeah, absolutely. You said that I pointed out and you know, yes we were very close. But that also means that we also we had our battles. And I think the best way to describe it is that we were a family. We truly were a family. Not always the healthiest family, but we were truly a family and we genuinely cared about each other and the wellbeing of each other’s families. So that bled into the football field where we were competing for one another, for each other. And that that propelled us to heights that we wouldn’t have been able to achieve just solo and individually. So yeah, absolutely we were, you could tell from afar, but when you’re in the locker room and you’re amongst the guys, you can definitely tell the difference is how much we bought into each other.

BRIAN: I want to change topics for a minute. You played at Stanford and your quarterback there for part of the time, at least was Andrew Luck. And Andrew announced his retirement from the NFL this past weekend, at the age of 29. You announced your retirement at the age of 30. Rob Gronkowski retired this offseason at age 29. Walk us through rehabbing an injury in just how grueling of a process that is not only physically but also emotionally.

DOUG: Yeah I can’t, I won’t be able to do it justice. I don’t think words…it’s just something that you have to experience. It’s just different and I think that there are some people who can understand it empathically, but for the most part, again, I felt like you have to go through. It’s not just the physical exertion that’s required for this. There’s a lot of things that, emotionally and mentally that is heavy when you’re dealing with significant injuries that week, like that we’ve dealt with. And it’s not, I shouldn’t say specifically about the injury itself that is pertaining to the mental and the emotional drain. But even the pressure of trying to get back, the pressure of feeling like everybody’s watching you and everybody’s waiting on you to get back. And the expectation is for you to get back faster and sooner than what the doctors diagnosed.

And so that’s part of it too. And when you feel like you are trying everything and doing everything you can to get back from that injury and it’s not progressing the way that you would want it to or, you’re still lingering after from that [injury]. There’s a lot of mental and emotional things that come into play, especially when you’re supposed to be on one of the biggest stages in the country — trying to perform at a high level and everybody scrutinizes you as you do. And so there’s an element to there that it’s just different. And again, it’s hard to explain. You know, those who haven’t experienced it, most times don’t understand. But it is a real thing for sure.

BRIAN: Well, and we kind of saw that with Kevin Durant this year in the finals, right? Like you could tell he felt a pressure to come back and then he came back and he re-injured himself. So that’s a risk that you take if you come back too early. Right?

DOUG: Correct. And I think that’s one of the common themes that you hear when you talk to guys after they’re trying to recover from a major injury. And the reason why is because if you come back too early, you are at a much higher risk of injuring yourself again or injuring another part of your body and then complicating the whole situation. And a number of guys do that. And I think that’s why you see a lot of these compound injuries and guys really struggling to stay healthy because they’re in the mindset that’s always been taught in NFL and football, I should say since we were younger, is that you just, you tough it out.

And that’s not to say that there’s not an element of that as well. There are some times when you’re hurt more so than you’re injured and you got to figure it out mentally to get through it. As well as physically, obviously. But then there are other times where you have to be a little bit smarter and recognize that there is an injury that you were exposed to that you’re dealing with that could significantly impact not only your immediate future and your immediate playing time, but also your long term health and your quality of life down the line. So those things obviously have to populate in your head when you’re trying to navigate that, that path of dealing with some injuries.

BRIAN: Well, so you play a brutal sport, right? Such a physical sport. Like you said, there’s injuries, but then I look at people like you, and Andrew, and even Gronk, you’re all smart guys. You apparently have saved and invested your money wisely. They talk about sports being a world of trends and we’re seeing guys who retire earlier. Do you think guys in the future are going to look at people like you, and Andrew, and Gronk and say, “Hey, I want to save my money too. I want to invest it the right way and then give myself the option to do other things beyond the football field. And by the way, not play such a physically brutal sport.”

DOUG: Yeah, I hope so. I hope that that’s a thought process that everybody has in his mind. And not just not just athletes, I mean even just anybody who’s working whatsoever. I think that we’re trying to reach the same goal. We’re trying to reach a point where we can do the things that are healthier for us in the grand scheme of things. And fortunately enough, and in some cases, some guys are able to make that happen. In other cases, guys aren’t, and they have to continue to push and figure out a way how to get that done. I think in the grand scheme of things, there’s a time you get to a certain age and you start to weigh what’s important and what you’re trying to accomplish, not only the next season or for your career in the NFL, but also what you’re trying to accomplish for your lifetime.

Those things start to weigh more heavily in your head. Like I said, as you get older and as you start to build a family and priorities start to change. Things change because ultimately what’s important is not wins and losses on the football field or how much money is in your bank. But being able to spend a quality of life with your family when you’re 45, 50, 60 years old, that’s something to be proud of and something to enjoy. Rather than be miserable and trying to figure out how to recover from injuries that you’ve dealt with in your football career.

Ultimately what’s important is not wins and losses on the football field or how much money is in your bank. But being able to spend a quality of life with your family when you’re 45, 50, 60 years old.

BRIAN: Such a good point. I want to go back to the mental health of athletes for a minute. It’s become a huge topic, not only with NFL players, but also I see guys like Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozen out there. I thought it was interesting about a month ago, the NBA has a new mandate that each team must have at least one mental health professional on retainer. So my question to you is, are sports leagues and the NCAA doing enough to help athletes with their mental health?

DOUG: I would veer to say no, and that’s not an indictment on the sports leagues themselves. I think it’s an indictment on society as a whole. I think that we don’t put enough emphasis on the impact of our mental health on our overall health. And that’s a societal thing. It’s not something that you talk about, it’s taboo to talk about and, but it’s a real thing. And anybody who has been in a locker room understands that it’s a real thing. And this is not a specific demographic of people that suffer from more or less issues with mental health. It’s just a portion of the society that deals in it.

Though I would argue that athletes are on the better scale of mental health because we exercise and because we have to be in an environment where we’re taking care of our bodies in other capacities. But that doesn’t take away like, again, all the mental and emotional stress that comes with the pressure of playing the sport in the first place. So there are those things as well attached to. So to answer your point, I don’t think that there is enough emphasis on mental health as a society. So I don’t see it being able to trickle down to the NFL, tune into other sports leagues enough either.

I think that we don’t put enough emphasis on the impact of our mental health on our overall health.

BRIAN: So if the NFL came to you tomorrow and said, “Hey, Doug, what can we do to help athletes with their mental health more in the future?” What would you tell them?

DOUG: I would tell him this, there are things that you can do on the younger age levels and the Pop Warner levels. We always talked about, or we’ve always seen these commercials of Play 60 and the elements of trying to get kids involved in football because you know, that’s what essentially what makes their bottom line. And the longer end they’re trying to contain sustain a pipeline of young players to the NFL. But if it was really about taking care of the mental health and the wellbeing of people from an early age all the way to the NFL — as the NFL has proclaimed to be passionate about, they should put more emphasis on mental health at a young age. Catch them early. Fix the problems and the issues that are arising now and that has been going on and on in society for a very long time. Catching them at a younger age and you give guys, people a better opportunity, a better chance to be healthier when they’re older. And when we’re actually participating in the NFL and after college.

BRIAN: No, I completely agree. I want to dig into your work with the Players Coalition. You’re a board member, but I want to first start with this, Doug. It takes a lot of courage to stick your neck out and take a stance on social justice issues. You’ve been doing this for a while now. Where does that courage and commitment come from, from you?

DOUG: I don’t know to be honest with you. And it’s kind of hard to state it because people may take it the wrong way when you express it the way that I’m out to express it. But you know, hell, I’m going to express it the way that I believe it to be. At some point in my life, I feel like I woke up and realized that there are people outside of myself. That there’s a whole world outside of myself. And it’s much bigger than just my house, my neighborhood, my city, my state, and much bigger than my country. When you start to look at human beings as just other human beings inhabiting this earth and you fall into a level of empathy. And you could imagine yourself in that person’s shoes or in on that person’s country or that person’s situation, and you start to think about, what would I want?

Who would be fighting for what I’m needing and what I’m experiencing? And it’s kind of hard to say no. It’s kind of hard to not push for these causes and push for changes and fight for essentially what I believe would be just basic human rights. In a sense also to also make sure that I’m looking through the lens of understanding that even the system itself is built by humans. And so there’s a level of empathy and understanding that some things are not intended with, some things just happen. And because we’re still human.

For example, implicit bias. There’s a lot of people who don’t know, they have implicit bias. And it’s not that they’re malicious in their intent, but it’s just they don’t know what they don’t know. I guess that’s a roundabout way of answering your question saying that on a human level it’s very hard not to push myself into these topics and these conversations because it matters so greatly to a great group of people who are again are just humans trying to inhabit this earth.

BRIAN: Well I’ll tell you why it’s admirable because not everyone in your position sticks their neck out there or thinks of people beyond themselves, frankly. And you’ve done such an amazing job. I want to go back to when you were a senior in high school. Cause this seems to me, I heard you tell the story a few years ago. It seems like this was a formative moment for you.

You’re a senior in high school and you got pulled over and the police thought that you were driving a stolen car and they didn’t know you from Adam. Right. They just pull you over. Tell the rest of the story from there. Cause I know your dad was in law enforcement and part of what you’re doing right now with Players Coalition is you’re helping law enforcement with de-escalation training. Tell me the rest of that story and did that experience help lead you to what you’re doing today with some of the de-escalation training?

DOUG: Yeah, I would say that it did have an element of influence in my conversations. And to be quite honest, when the actual situation happened, I didn’t think much about it outside of the fact that it was just a scary situation. The reason why I didn’t is because I genuinely believe that there was a mistake and I really had nothing else to go off of, to be completely honest with you. So it was, it was definitely a scary experience. And I definitely shared that with all the law enforcement officers that I spoke to. It was just part of the conversation, understanding and realizing that we’re all human and that we make mistakes. And yeah, sometimes they’re as the cliché saying is that there are some bad apples who make it worse for a lot of people.

I would say the same thing is very similar to guys in the NFL. You know there’s a stigma around players in the NFL that guys are abusive or are drunks or whatever and that’s just not the case. It’s just a few guys who struggle with that side of addiction. And just like there are in the greater population of society. It’s just we’re on a higher profile platform and so there’s more attention brought to it. So yeah, I did have conversations with them regarding that. But again, like to my point, it spoke more to the human element of the interaction that people have regular civilians have with, with law enforcement and the importance of getting it right at a human level.

BRIAN: You and other NFL stars like Malcolm Jenkins, Anquan Boldin, Chris Long, Josh Norman, Josh McCown, Devin McCourty, Benjamin Watson, you’re rolling up your sleeves, you’re meeting with law enforcement officials, lawmakers, education leaders, community leaders, via the Players Coalition. For people listening to this right now who don’t know what the Players Coalition is, what is it and how was it formed?

DOUG: Yeah, so the Players Coalition was formed, a few years ago and it was basically this — it spun out of a conversation a number of us were having in a text thread. We were just communicating on things that we were passionate about and things that we wanted to get done. And so, we want to emphasize that this is, was entirely player-led. It had nothing to do with the NFL. It was totally outside of the NFL. We as players built an organization to push and initiate change on initiatives that we felt compelled to work on. And so we’ve been doing this for a number of years now. And we’re outside of the NFL. We’re totally independent of the NFL. Yes, the NFL has given us, some financial support. However, we’re in control of where the money goes and making sure that we are supporting initiatives that on the ground level and actually making a change. And not in a PR way, that I think that’s the biggest thing.

A lot of times I think organizations, companies, corporate companies are trying to push a narrative of what they are doing instead of actually worrying about what the impact is. I’m very proud to be on the Players Coalition because that’s what we’re about. We’re about making the change and doing the work. And not really concerned about with what’s in the media or what the public is talking about because it’s more so about how we’re making a change in the communities that need it the most. I’m thinking, I’m very proud to be part of the Coalition and all the things we’ve been able to accomplish to this point.

We’re about making the change and doing the work.

BRIAN: Well you mentioned the money that the NFL gave. It’s my understanding of $89 million, but it’s over seven years. And Doug, to get the Players Coalition off the ground, you and the other board members put your own money in to start this, right? Like no one funded this for you. You guys funded this on your own, right?

DOUG: Correct. There were a lot of guys across the league who supported the Players Coalition financially. And then obviously the guys on the board, we’ve all had to contribute money as well. Again, my point is that it was player-led. These very passionate guys in yourself who were determined to make a change in their communities, in the country for the betterment of society. It was a no-brainer that it should be led by players and it has been led by players. And yeah, you definitely can attribute the early support to players because that’s where it was, where the money came from.

BRIAN: So, the Players Coalition is a 501c3, 501c4 as I understand it. A lot of people listening to this may say, okay, this money’s coming in. Where is the money being allocated and who decides where that money goes?

DOUG: So first and foremost, we have a working group of players and a task force of players and we discuss where that money is going to go. We are passionate about a number of different pillars, so public education, criminal justice reform and police and community relations. And so within those pillars, we’ve look at different organizations and initiatives that are doing work, that are trying to make a change. And we support those in a number of ways. But we’re adamant about making sure that those pillars aligned with our core values. And so there’s a number of things we’ve done. I don’t want to go through the list of all of them, but the work that we have done has been very impactful on the ground level and we’re hoping that it bleeds into the greater trajectory of our country.

The Key Pillars of the Players Coalition

BRIAN: Well, and the thing that I want to emphasize too is that you’re not just allocating money and going, well, this organization sent us a letter and we’re sending money here. Like you’re sitting in courtrooms, you’re meeting with law enforcement officials, you are rolling up your sleeves and talking to the people in the community who are making these decisions. And that is a volunteer of your time situation. You’re not being paid for this.

DOUG: No not at all. And this is what we’re passionate about though. So I think that it shouldn’t be surprising, right? The members of the Players Coalition, we regularly engage with subject matter experts, with public defenders, with grassroots organizations, elected officials, and that’s to arm ourselves, with education and information. But then it’s also said we can go out and engage the public about the systemic issues that are frankly impacting their lives, directly or indirectly. So these are things that we’re passionate about, so it shouldn’t be surprising to anybody that this is the path that we’ve chosen.

BRIAN: What are the top-line issues that you think people need to be aware of?

DOUG: In what way? In terms of…

BRIAN: You’re doing work in the community. I mean, is it the de-escalation training with the law enforcement officials? Like you’re sitting in courtrooms, you’re talking to people. What are you seeing out there that are the biggest issues of need right now?

DOUG: I think the biggest need is really for people, as you said, to roll up their sleeves and just educate themselves. I think that’s the biggest need. Before I can even talk about the topic level issues and the big words that catch everybody’s attention, before I can even talk about those. It’s just, it simply comes down to people understanding what those things are and how they impact their lives.

Whether you’re directly impacted by it or whether you’re indirectly impacted by it. I think the real message I want to make sure that’s clear is that this is a humanity issue. This is not just a black and white issue or left and right issue. This is a humanity issue. Too many taxpayers, specifically we can talk about prisons, is it’s too many taxpayer dollars that are going into prisons instead of education. And prisons in a lot of ways is becoming a business because it’s free labor.

This is not just a black and white issue or left and right issue. This is a humanity issue.

And I think that you just go down that path and you look at Amendment 13 in the US Constitution and you start to dive into all the things that impact people who are affected by Amendment 13. You start to realize that there’s a systemic issue in our country. And really it’s hard for me too, I can say all those words, but it’s really hard for people to completely understand. Unless they roll their sleeves, they get educated about it, they look into it and then they place themselves in an empathetic position to feel the impact that something might have on somebody. And again, indirectly it’s taxpayer dollars that are paying for this systemic issue. So I don’t want to talk about all the topics, things that that are out there in the public and really not being digested and absorbed by the greater population society.

So I guess the biggest issue I would be pushing for is just to people to educate themselves and to listen to what guys are saying. Because obviously if we, as individuals and the Players Coalition, are putting so much effort into this and there’s a conglomerate of people across the country in the world that are putting so much effort into this human issue, it’s got to be something there, right? Wherever there is smoke, there’s probably a fire. There’s a lot of smoke. And so I’m hoping that this conversation and the many conversations that we have realizing — people that are hoping is revealing to people that there is a fire and that we need to find ways to put it out.

BRIAN: Doug, unfortunately, a lot of efforts like this become political. People want to make them political. And I’ve seen that the media and even some of the fans have created sides. And on one side you’ve got the Players Coalition. And then on the other side, you’ve got Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid. What’s the real dynamic? Is everyone on the same team or is this as political as it seems — the media has made it out to be?

DOUG: Yeah, I mean there’s an element of the media sensationalizing it as well. But yeah, we’re on the same team and I don’t know if it can be any more apparent that I know what Colin took a knee for and what a lot of the players are fighting for are the same. We’re fighting for changes to our systemic issues. And that’s above all else this the direction that all of us are going. So yes, I would veer more to say that the media is sensationalizing and more than it’s an actual issue.

BRIAN: The NFL recently partnered with Jay-Z to work together on social issues. Some people saw that as a PR move. Other people said, “Hey, look at Jay-Z’s track record. He’s made some meaningful differences in our world.” How did you view it?

DOUG: If I’m being transparent, when I first heard the news I was kind of confused. For one, you know, the Players Coalition was not informed of this partnership, which we were supposed to be. All right. Anything in regards to social activism, and the conversations around our social work. You know, the Players Coalition was supposed to be involved in those discussions and we weren’t. So, take that aside. And to be completely honest, I’m not surprised by that. But I will say that I’m in a wait and see position because I don’t know what Jay-Z has planned. And I don’t know what the partnership really involves. I think that there’s an element to it that’s obviously been talked about as the NFL trying to cover up their tracks in a sense by using Jay-Z as a PR move. And I do see an element of that as well.

But again, to your point to the comment that you said Jay-Z’s track record and who he’s claimed to be in the public sphere, those are things that have some value in where we’re going to be in a position of wait and see and see what happened. I do think that there was some mistakes made. Obviously, the fact that there’s the PR issue that comes out of this, the fact that it wasn’t forecasted in that it wasn’t looked at beforehand. I think that that’s a major issue.

I think there’s a lot of steps that were missed in the process. Including Jay Z, not talking to Colin Kaepernick before he signed the partnership. And I’m not saying that he had to, but just as a courtesy to the man who actually started this entire conversation, I thought that that was — that should’ve been the first thing he did was have a conversation with him. But again, I don’t know all the details, so I’m in a wait and see position. We’re going to wait and see what happens.

BRIAN: All right, we’ve got just a few minutes left. Wrapping up on the Players Coalition. So the areas of focus, criminal justice reform, social and racial equality. There are other things that you’re doing. You’re rolling up your sleeves. If someone’s listening to this right now, cause we have athletes, we have companies who are listening to this conversation right now and they want to get involved and they want to get educated. How do they do that? How do they join your effort?

DOUG: I mean there’s a number of ways that they can do it. Now I can list off the typical ways of you can go to our website, you can donate money to help support our organization. That obviously then goes and helps support the initiatives in order to other organizations. But just on a human level, I think the biggest call to action is just for us as a society to be more cognizant of applying empathy to those around us. And not in a selfish egotistical way, I’m empathic and you’re not. But truly just shutting up and listening to the struggles of our fellow human beings who are just trying to inhabit this earth and survive on this planet.

I think that’s the biggest call to action that I — is that the main call to action I want to push. There is a level of — there is a need for people to be more empathetic and to understand the plight of other people. And if we can do that in an empathic way. Do it in a way that you can expand on conversations and expand your perspective and look outside of yourself and look for ways in which you can make a greater impact on that, on your immediate community. Then maybe we can have a drastic change.

Maybe we can have a culture shift. Maybe we can start realizing that there are a lot of things that are wrong with this country and be willing to admit it and be willing to admit that that’s okay, that there are things that we need to change because we’re not perfect. And nobody will be. But that doesn’t mean we don’t stop progressing, evolving, and changing things for the betterment of our society. I guess that’s my point is I’m hoping that from all the conversations we’ve had and including this one, that the importance of empathy and for looking at each other as human beings that are just inhabiting this planet together. Yeah, that’s my call to action.

BRIAN: Well, and personally, the term I’ve been using a lot lately is echo chamber. And I’ve heard you do interviews and you’ve said, “Get out of your comfort zone. Have conversations with people who don’t think or look like you.” And I think that is great advice because I think in the world today, without turning this too political, we tend to talk to people who think and look like us. And we live in that echo chamber. And it’s really important to see the other side of the equation.

DOUG: Absolutely. And I’ll use the analogy of business, I think actually this is not even an analogy for business. This is just an analogy for life. If you’re never failing, then you’re never learning, right? If you don’t fail, it means you’re not learning. You’re not challenging yourself. You’re not evolving. You’re not progressing. And it’s the same thought process in your comfort zone. If you’re never uncomfortable. If you’re never challenged. If you never fail in your thinking and you’re not growing.

Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it’s the only thought. Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean to be only a pain. Just because you have a belief doesn’t mean that’s the only belief. And if we can look at that again on an impassive level and take the time to put our beliefs and our opinions and our thoughts to the side to hear somebody else’s opinions, thoughts and beliefs. Then maybe on an empathic level, we can understand where people are coming from.

We can understand why there’s such an outpour and a desire and need for the criminal justice system to change. When there’s a community of people who feel threatened and feel like their life is in danger every time they come into contact with law enforcement, right? There’s a reason for that. There’s a reason, for again, I don’t want to get too passionate about it and take up too much more of our time on this specific question. But the point is, is that there is an empathic level and need for people to rationalize in their head what’s going on and why there’s such an outpour. And I think it would be a lot easier for the greater demographics of our population to just, and to put it bluntly, to just shut up and listen. To understand that there’s a viewpoint outside of your own. And if you can take the time to listen to that perspective and that viewpoint, you might learn something. But you can only do that to your point if you’re uncomfortable and you’re having a conversation with people who don’t look like you and don’t think like you.

BRIAN: Amen. All right. Your future you are such a bright guy, well-spoken guy. I know you’re involved in a few things. You have the Doug Baldwin Family Combine, which you do, which people can learn more about it at You’ve been advocating for a new multifaceted center in the state of Washington. What are the things you want to focus on going forward?

DOUG: That’s a good question. There’s a lot. There’s a lot of directions I want to go in. But I think what I started off doing was, you know, having conversations with law enforcement, with the community and just really trying to educate myself on how we can attack some of the systemic issues and just some of the behavioral issues, including implicit bias. And how we get better at educating not only our adults right now but also our children who are going to be the next generation to be dealing with this issue.

You know, I think that’s where my passion is. It’s going to keep me focusing on the younger generation and not providing a perspective that they should have, but just a different perspective that they may not have received at home. And I think that’s vitally important to the growth of our society. And we have to continue to expose ourselves to different cultures, different beliefs, different perspectives so that we can understand each other better. And that’s not to say that you need to change your beliefs, but just so that you can be empathic about somebody else’s belief. I think that’s where my passions are going to stick. And that’s the road that I’m going to continue to walk down.

BRIAN: Yeah, I’m sure. I’m a father too. And when you have kids, it really does change your perspective cause you start thinking about the world that we’re leaving for our kids. And when you think about it in that perspective, it’s really different, isn’t it?

DOUG: It is. And it’s been a struggle to go through this process and look through it in that lens. For example, I can bring out the example of Trayvon Martin of course. Just a kid who is no longer alive. And regardless of the circumstances around it, if you can just look at it at on the simple level of that, it’s just a kid who’s no longer alive. It pulls at the heartstrings in a number of ways.

And then again to your point, when you have a child and you start to think about all the things that a child would be doing or experiencing in life and those are one of the things you don’t want to think about. Those are one of the experiences you don’t want to think about. And it’s a challenge. But it’s also the reason why there’s so much passion and so much motivation to change things in our society and to make this world a better place. And to your point, it’s much more difficult when you look at it through a lens of as a parent. And putting that empathy and putting yourself in the shoes of another parent who has lost a child to some of these — quite frankly, things that we can change.

BRIAN: I want to finish with something a little lighter. You used to do something on YouTube called the Fresh Files I saw. And you know, I listened to you speak and I’m like, this guy is made for broadcasting or podcasting or you know, the Fresh Files on YouTube. Is any of that in your future? Cause I just think you have so much to say and I’d love to see you develop some platforms to continue saying it.

DOUG: I appreciate that first and foremost. But I’m not sure, honestly. There’s a lot of things that I am involved with right now. A lot of things that I want to do quite frankly. And I don’t know where all that’s gonna lead. So maybe in the future, I’m not anticipating getting into broadcasting anytime soon, if at all. But you never know. We’ll figure out what’s going to happen when it does.

BRIAN: Doug Baldwin, Jr., you can follow him on Twitter @DougBaldwinJr. You can follow the Players Coalition on Twitter @playerscoalition. Doug, like I said, I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I tip my cap to you cause I just, you know, anyone who went undrafted and had an eight-year career in the NFL. And was as accomplished as you were and you know, led the NFL in touchdowns in 2015 and won a Super Bowl, two Pro Bowls and now to see what you’re doing in the community. I’m not pandering to you here, but you should be very, very proud of what you’ve done with your life so far. And I’m sure like when I saw you retire, I go, you know what? This guy is going to be more successful post-retirement than he was on the football field. And I honestly believe that.

DOUG: I appreciate you saying that. And that’s the plan. I want football just to be a part of my life. You know, it’s not my legacy, it’s not who I am. It’s just a part of my life. It’s what I did for a section, a portion of my life. So I’m really thrilled and excited about this next journey in this next phase, because to your point, I have ambitions and I have goals and I’m looking forward to accomplishing them.

BRIAN: Well, Doug, thanks for joining us on Sports Business Radio. I hope we can stay in touch.

DOUG: Yes sir. Thank you for having me.

Listen to the whole episode of Sports Business Radio Podcast:

Sports Business Radio focuses on the issues and people directly impacting the world of sports business. Guests on the show offer an insider’s perspective include pro sports league executives, agents, college athletics administrators, sports apparel company reps, ad agency executives, media executives and athletes.

Subscribe: iTunes / Stitcher / RSS / Spotify

Sports Business Radio

Guests of the show offer an insider’s perspective include pro sports league executives, agents, college athletics administrators, sports apparel company reps, ad agency executives, media executives and athletes.

Alan Cassinelli

Written by

Content Marketing Manager at

Sports Business Radio

Guests of the show offer an insider’s perspective include pro sports league executives, agents, college athletics administrators, sports apparel company reps, ad agency executives, media executives and athletes.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade