Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat during the anthem prior to the team's game against the Chargers in Carson, Calif. Sunday night.
Seahawk defensive lineman Michael Bennett sat during the national anthem prior to the team’s preseason opener against the Chargers in Carson, Calif., Sunday night, a stance he said he will continue throughout the 2017 season in an effort to “continuously push” a message against injustice in society.
While the rest of the team continued its routine of last season of standing with locked arms along the sideline during the anthem, Bennett sat on a bench with a towel draped over his shoulder pads.
After the anthem finished he stood up and joined the rest of his defensive teammates.
Bennett said after the game he made the decision in the last few days in the wake of demonstrations in Charlottesville and elsewhere, including earlier Sunday in Seattle, and said he plans to sit for the anthem for the rest of the season.
“Seeing everything in Virginia and stuff that is going on I just wanted to be able to use my platform to continuously speak out on injustice,” Bennett said.
Bennett said it was not a stance against the military, noting that his father, Michael Bennett Sr., served in the Navy. Last October Bennett represented Seahawks players at the team’s annual “Change of Command” ceremony when the franchise honors a local military unit.
“First of all I want to make sure people understand I love the military — my father was in the military,” Bennett said. “I love hot dogs like any other American. I love football like any other American. But I don’t love segregation, I don’t love riots, I don’t love oppression. I don’t love gender slander. I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve and I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message and keep finding out how unselfish we can be in society, how we can continuously love one another and understand that people are different. And just because people are different doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t like them. Just because they don’t eat what you eat, just because they don’t pray to the same God you pray to doesn’t mean you should hate them. Whether it is Muslim, whether it is Buddhist, whether it is Christianity, I just want people to understand that no matter what, we need to stay together. It’s more about being a human being at this point.”
The move came a day after former Seahawk Marshawn Lynch sat during the anthem before Oakland’s game against Arizona.
Bennett, however, said he had not talked to Lynch.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he did not know Bennett planned to sit and that “I haven’t really had a chance to think about it. I just heard about it walking through the door (to his post-game press conference).”
Bennett said he hoped his stance would not distract his team or coaches and said he had not tried to talk any other players into joining him.
“I didn’t really want to try to get anybody else to follow me,” he said. “I just wanted to do my own thing. … I don’t want to be a distraction to my teammates. I don’t want to be a distraction to the organization, or Pete, or anybody on my team. I’m just doing what I do, and what I think is right. I’ve dedicated my life to this. This is what I believe in. This is my purpose. This is what I believe, to change society, to go into communities, doing organic work and just continuing to push the message that things aren’t fair.”
Bennett has been particularly outspoken about social issues and is writing a book titled “How to Make White People Uncomfortable.” Bennett also recently appeared at a fundraiser for Seattle woman Charleena Lyles, who was killed in a police shooting in June.
Bennett said he thought about other ways to make his point but that “this seems like the thing for me to do. I have this platform and I want to be able to use it and let other athletes know it’s okay if you believe that things are going wrong and you want to speak about it, it’s okay.”
Bennett has also shown consistent support for former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sat and then kneeled during the anthem throughout last season.
Bennett recently said “of course he’s being blackballed” in regards to the fact that Kaepernick has not signed with an NFL team.
Kaeperenick had a visit with the Seahawks in May and Bennett said later he wished the Seahawks had signed him.
Bennett said he understood he will get criticism saying “of course I am going to face a backlash” and that “I know there’s a whole bunch of people right now judging me.”
But he spoke of the need for people to make themselves vulnerable to achieve greater goals