The 12th Man: the Ultimate in Direct Democracy for Sports

This post is part of an archived series of blogs called The LeVine Line, written by former Ambassador Suzan G. LeVine during her time at U.S. Embassy Bern.

7 August 2014

Direct Democracy has some variation in its application across the world, but is fundamentally the concept that the people get to make the law.

Representative Democracy also has some variations, but is fundamentally the concept that people elect representatives who make the law. (I realize these definitions are hyper-simplified, but they will work for this particular post)

Switzerland and Washington State (along with some other states) have a blend of Direct and Representative Democracy.

The 12th Man” refers to the fans of a given (American) football team since there are 11 players on the field of play. It reflects the sense that the fans are an important part of a team’s play.

Over the past couple of years, The 12th Man in Seattle has taken that to a whole new level.

Just like a Direct Democracy is about empowered citizens, the Seattle Seahawks’ 12th Man is about empowered fans who have a direct impact on the outcome of the game. Given the number of penalties that have happened as a result of the massive fan noise and the distraction that they cause opposing teams, I believe that Seattle’s The 12th Man is the ultimate in direct democracy for sports!