Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett said that the conversation surrounding anthem protests would change if white athletes would join in on the movement as well.
“It would take a white player to really get things changed,” said Bennett on Wednesdaywhen speaking with ESPN, “because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it … it would change the whole conversation. Because when you bring somebody who doesn’t have to be a part of [the] conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump.”
The athlete decided to sit during the national anthem on Sunday’s preseason game over the weekend following his former teammate, Marshawn Lynch, who sat during the Oakland Raiders opening preseason game on Saturday a move that Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said is anon-issue, despite Del Rio’s own strong beliefs in standing for the anthem.
Lynch, the running back who recently came out of a 14-month retirement from the NFL, told his new coach that him sitting during the anthem is something he has been doing for 11 years.
Although Bennett’s decision may seem new to some, the athlete said otherwise.
Bennett told the sports outlet that his decision wasn’t something out of the blue and that he had been contemplating throughout the summer about sitting for the anthem. The recent events in Charlottesville, Va., are what tipped the scale for the six-foot-four defender, who said that he plans on sitting for the anthem for the entire season and that he wants to use his platform to promote equality for everyone.
“Over the weekend, so much violence, so much hate,” Bennett said on ESPN. “I just wanted to remember why we were American citizens, remember the freedom, the liberty and the equality, make sure we never forget that. I really wanted to honor that, the founding principles of what we’re all supposed to be. Charlottesville was so crazy, so much going on in the world now, it just made sense.”
The defensive lineman noted that some players were afraid of taking part in the protest because of the situation with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began taking a knee during the anthem last season and now has yet to find a home with a football team.
“He had to sacrifice. He spoke up and dealt with a lot of things that were going on from death threats, people not wanting him in the stadium, people hating him,” Bennett said of Kaepernick’s willingness to protest by both kneeling and sitting at games. “I think a lot of players were scared of that. Then on top of that, players feeling like he was being blackballed, people were eventually scared.”
NFL manager says teams will use Kaepernick as cautionary tale to prevent players “from doing what he did.”
He added, “But now, just because he’s out of the league, we didn’t want to lose that message, pushing for liberty and equality for everybody. We just wanted to keep that message alive.”
On how athletes can set an example going forward, Bennett said that the same way players sell merchandise and products through endorsements, they can sell equality to the children who look up to them.
“Instead of just inspiring them to be athletes,” he told ESPN, “we can inspire them to be change makers.”
Bennett, who has a father who served in the military, said the Seahawks had military guests who came to give him positive feedback by saying they trusted him.
“People make this divide, like I’m trying to disrespect the military. And they come to me and say this is what they’re fighting for,” Bennett said. “It just touched my heart.”
During another video interview withESPN, Bennett preached his want for everyone to love and embrace one another despite being different.
“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,” the athlete said about our country needing to learn the art of acceptance. “I want to see people have the equality that they deserve. How can we continuously love each other and understand that people are different And just because they’re different doesn’t mean you shouldn’t like them.”
He drove his point home by saying, “I just want people to understand that no matter what we [are] in this thing together and it’s more about being a human being at this point.”