Michael Bennett again sat for the anthem prior to Friday's game but this time had at least some symbolic company.
As he had said he would, Seahawk defensive lineman Michael Bennett again sat during the national anthem prior to Seattle’s preseason game against the Vikings Friday night at CenturyLink Field.
But this time he was joined at least symbolically by center Justin Britt, who stood next to Bennett with his right hand on Bennett’s left shoulder, and cornerback Jeremy Lane standing in front of Bennett with his back to the field.
And as the anthem ended, teammates Cliff Avril and Frank Clark broke from the rest of the team — standing with arms locked on the sidelines — to then sit by Bennett on the bench. Avril is one of Bennett’s closest friends on the team.
Britt, a fourth-year player from Missouri, then hugged Bennett as the anthem ended and Bennett stood up.
Britt said after the game he made the decision after talking with his wife, Alicia.
“It was something me and my wife talked about and discussed, and we both wanted to show support to Mike,” said Britt, a native of Lebanon, Mo. “I talked to him before, made sure it was all right with him, and of course it was. I feel like what I did, I believe in it, and I’m going to continue to educate myself and try to understand why things are going on.”
Added Britt: “I want to support him. I want to support what he’s standing for and his beliefs. I’m not foolish. I’m from Missouri. I get things are different in that area than it is in some other areas. I’m not against what the flag means and veterans. My dad was in the Army. I’m not putting any disrespect to them. I’m just trying to understand the issues, trying to educate myself more in that regard and showing support. I’m going to continue to understand what’s going on in the world and why it’s happening, because none of it’s right. None of it is what should be happening. I’m going to continue talking with Mike and exploring and just helping myself understand things. I’m wanted to take a first step tonight, and that’s what I felt I did.”
Britt became the second white player in two days to show support for a black player protesting the anthem — Philadelphia’s Chris Long stood with an arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who has been raising a fist during the anthem.
Bennett had said during the week that it would help the cause if white players joined in and he said he appreciated Britt’s actions.
“I think it was very touching for me, a very emotional moment to have that kind of solidarity from someone like Justin Britt who is a very known leader in our locker room, who is from a different part of America from me,” Bennett said. “But to be able to have that solidarity, to have someone who is behind me and know that somebody that I really trust and to be able to see him put everything on the line to be able to support one of his teammates I thought that was a very special moment and an emotional moment for me. It was very touching and I’m very thankful to have someone in my corner like that.”
Asked if he had been influenced by Long, Britt said: “Maybe. I know Chris. Haven’t talked to him about it. What Mike said and how he said he thought a white player should do it, that kind of triggered in my mind because I see what’s going on. We all do, and we all have choices whether to be an example or be a follower. I always tell kinds don’t be a follower, be the one they’re following. Whether it’s good or bad in some eyes, I feel like I’m just supporting my teammate, supporting why he’s doing it and his reasons and encourage others.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he hadn’t known that Britt was going to stand with Bennett until the moment that it happened.
“I know that those guys were talking about some stuff I wasn’t sure exactly,” Carroll said. “I think it was, I didn’t see it, I was told, I think it’s a demonstration, a show of support from his teammates that we do support Mike’s issues and the things that he wants to try to change and effect. … I think that’s what that was.”
Carroll said it “warmed my heart to hear that that’s what happened. Those guys have some brains, they are thinking about it. They are thinking about it very seriously. This is not just some frivolous thing where someone made a mistake and sat down and did it. This is guy working at it and trying to figure out how to help an make some sense for other people too.”
Bennett had been introduced first when the team introduced its defensive starters prior to the game and then stood near the entrance to the tunnel greeting each of the other players as they were introduced.
Bennett also sat for the anthem before last Sunday’s game against the Chargers in Carson, Calif., and said afterward he planned to sit for the entire season to draw attention to social injustice and other similar causes.
Teammates had said the team might come up with a way to support Bennett and also turn his actions into something of a teamwide stand.
“We are going to have a conversation here shortly and again, we try to do things as a team and as a family,” receiver Doug Baldwin said Tuesday. “We will see how we can support Mike in this situation.”
Carroll was intentionally vague when asked on Thursday what that stance would be.
“We have,” he said. “Wait and see.”
Last year, the Seahawks decided to stand on the sideline with locked arms as a team gesture after some players considered sitting for the anthem before the season opener against Miami. That came after Lane sat for the anthem in the final preseason game against the Raiders — Lane did not sit again for the anthem the rest of the season.