Seahawk defensive end Michael Bennett plans to keep sitting for the anthem despite the wishes of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the NFL’s goal is to get the number of players who are not standing for the national anthem before games “to zero.”
But Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said shortly after that comment that Goodell won’t get his wish this season, saying he will continue to sit.
“I plan on sitting down, in general,’’ said Bennett, who has sat for the anthem for all but one game this season, Seattle’s game Oct. 8 when he stood along with the rest of the defensive line to honor victims of the Las Vegas shooting. “Like I said, I’ll continue to do what I’ve been doing, and the consequences are the consequences.’’
Bennett also said he doesn’t think there can be any meaningful dialogue between the NFL and players who are sitting or taking other measures to draw attention to social issues until former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick is back in the league.
Bennett’s sentiments ran counter to those of other players, including teammates such as Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin, who have called recent discussions between the NFL and players encouraging. Baldwin went as far as to work with Goodell to send a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsing a criminal justice reform bill.
Kaepernick was the first player to begin sitting and then kneeling for the anthem in 2016. He became a free agent after last season and has not been signed. Bennett and other players, including Sherman, agree with Kaepernick’s contention that he is being blackballed in retaliation.
Bennett said players need to have faith that the NFL won’t penalize them for speaking out in whatever manner they wish before there can be any constructive conversations between the two sides.
“I think the first step to even being able to have a conversation is making sure that Colin Kaepernick gets an opportunity to play in the NFL,’’ Bennett said. “That’s before we even negotiate anything about whether we sit or whether we stand there should be a negotiation about opening up the doors for Colin Kaepernick and giving him an opportunity again. Through everything, that’s been lost. All of us are having an opportunity to speak to our employers, but to think about the guy who started everything not to be able to have a voice at this moment doesn’t seem very right to me. …
“I think before we can move forward that is something we need to address as a league and address as players and address as the NFLPA (the players’ association), because if it can happen to one of our own, then how can we fight for what we want if we can’t protect the people who play next to us, and that’s something that we need to make sure that we get across to the employers and Roger and the rest of the guys. … I think it’s something, like I said, that there needs to be a deep conversation, and we need to find a solution about that. Whether they say ‘This is what’s happening, he’s not going to play again,’ or whether they open their doors up, but I think there needs to be some kind of resolution to what’s going on.’’
Bennett did not take part in the meetings in New York on Tuesday in which a select group of players met with Goodell to talk about why some players are sitting and steps the league could take to try address some of the issues the players are trying to bring to light. However, he said he tried to monitor what was going on via phone and talked to some who were in attendance.
Bennett said he did not think the emphasis on Kaepernick was detracting from the overall message of attempting to bring attention to social injustices.
“He started the message, and for us to forget about who started it I don’t think is right,’’ Bennett said. “I don’t think we are following our brotherhood or whatever. I think we have to bring that up. I don’t think it derails the message. I think that is a part of the message.’’
Baldwin on Tuesday said the letter he co-authored with Goodell was further proof of attempting to move beyond merely talking and beginning to take action. And when asked about Kaepernick alleging collusion, Baldwin indicated that is a separate issue and that substantive progress can be made regardless.
“Colin has to do what he has to do,’’ Baldwin said. “I don’t want it to detract from what we are trying to get done as a coalition of players in the league right now, in terms of the issues and opportunities that we have brought about. Honestly, I haven’t engaged with it.”
But Bennett was adamant saying, “I don’t think we can work alongside of them until we address that issue.’’
Bennett also spoke strongly about the right of players to continue to sit for the anthem regardless of what Goodell may wish.
Goodell said following the league meetings on Wednesday that “the fact is, we have about half a dozen players that are protesting. We are hoping to continue to try and work and get that to zero. That is what we’d like to do.’’
Bennett said a comment by Dallas owner Jerry Jones that he would not let anyone who sits for the anthem take the field “is crazy. And I just think it’s inconsiderate.’’
Bennett went on to compare it to Dred Scott, a reference to the famous 1857 court case in which Scott, a slave, sued unsuccessfully for his freedom, a decision that has been credited with setting in motion events that led to the Civil War.
“I just thought it (Jones’ comments) reminded me of the Dred Scott case,’’ Bennett said. “You are property, so you don’t have the ability to be a person first. And I think in this generation I think that sends the wrong message to young kids and young people all across the world that your employer doesn’t see you as a human being, they see you as a piece of property. And if that’s the case, then I don’t get it. I just don’t get why you don’t see him as a human being, they don’t see us as human beings first.’’