Michael Bennett's younger brother, Reshaud, helped lead a rally in support of his brother Sunday morning before the Seahawks game.
They marched through the streets of the International District, leaders of the protest prompting: “Mikey B is under attack. What do we do? Colin Kap is under attack, what do we do? Black lives are under attack, what do we do?”
“Stand up, fight back,” came the response from more than a hundred voices each time, with many of the protestors wearing Seahawks No. 72 jerseys to support defensive end Michael Bennett.
On Sept. 6, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett publicly alleged that he was the victim of excessive force at the hands of Las Vegas Police Department officers, who, Bennett says, held him to the ground and pointed a gun at his head during an incident in Las Vegas on August 27.
The Las Vegas Police Department has refuted Bennett’s version of events, and the situation is still under official review.
Bennett’s younger brother, Reshaud Bennett, former Seattle mayoral candidate and social justice activist Nikkita Oliver, and Katrina Johnson, a cousin of Charleena Lyles, all spoke at a Black Lives Matter rally that was organized by the Seattle NAACP and began Sunday morning outside Union Station before the Seahawks’ home opener against San Francisco.
With the protestors gathered at the corner of 4th and Jackson Street, several different speakers spoke about the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement before they began their march through the streets and out to CenturyLink Field, accompanied by a police escort.
Rita Green, education chair of the Seattle King County NAACP, said her organization began planning the rally about three weeks ago to show support for former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has been unable to find a job with any NFL team since this season. Many, including the NAACP, believe Kaepernick has been frozen out by NFL owners after his decision to kneel during the national anthem last season to make a statement in support of the Black Lives Matters movement.
“That’s a civil rights violation because he has the freedom to speak and he should not be penalized for that,” Green said of Kaepernick’s situation. “We already had this planned before the whole Michael Bennett incident happened.”
Like Kaepernick last season, Bennett has decided to sit through the national anthem before Seahawks games this season as a statement of support for black rights, among other issues.
He did so again Sunday afternoon, when the Seahawks hosted the 49ers in their season opener. Bennett sat on the bench alone, but was flanked by Justin Britt and Thomas Rawls, who stood with a hand on each of Bennett’s shoulder pads. Frank Clark also came over to Bennett part way through the anthem and sat down next to him.
At the rally before the game, Reshaud Bennett says his older brother told him about the incident in Las Vegas the day after it happened, saying, “he was upset about what happened to him and told me how they took him down and put a gun to his head.”
The youngest of the three Bennett brothers came up from Portland, Ore., for the rally and spoke to the crowd, saying, “It’s not easy to do what’s right, it’s not easy to stand up for what’s right. They are in the light where people judge them every day for what they’re doing as pro athletes, but it’s good because these guys are on the front line, and they have little brothers and family members and everybody out here trying to help everyone fight for our rights and everything.”
Green said she hoped the rally, and the retelling of Bennett and Kaepernick’s stories would raise support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I hope this rally brings more awareness and gets people who are just standing on the sidelines, not doing anything, to speak up,” Green said. “That’s the hope.”
After the game, Michael Bennett said it meant “everything” to have his brother and others supporting him.
“It’s good to always have your family support you and also to have a lot of people in the city support me, it’s just a really good thing,” Michael Bennett said.
Bennett’s other brother, Martellus, a tight end for the Green Bay Packers, stood with his fist raised in the black power salute during the national anthem before Green Bay’s game against Atlanta Sunday night.
Michael Bennett also raised a closed fist after he sacked 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer in the Seahawks’ 12-9 win over San Francisco on Sunday, but when asked after the game if the gesture had meant anything, he said it was “just a fist in the air, nothing really.”