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Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett reportedly says he plans to sit on the bench during the playing of the national anthem before every game this season. He says he wants to bring awareness to social injustice.
Bennett was spotted sitting on the bench during the anthem before Sunday's preseason game between the Seahawks and the Los Angeles Chargers. Bennett was seated alone with a towel over his head.
After the game, Bennett said this weekend's protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Seattle moved him to respond by taking action. A woman was killed in Charlottesville after a car rammed into a group of counter-protesters during a "Unite The Right" rally. The driver has been charged with second-degree murder.
“I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message … of how unselfish you can be as a society,” Bennett said following Sunday’s game. “How we can continuously love one another and understand that people are different, and just because they’re different, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t like them. Because they don’t smell the way you smell and they don’t eat what you eat, because they don’t pray to the same god that you pray to, doesn’t mean that you should hate them.
“Whether it’s Muslim or Buddhists or Christianity, whatever it is, I just want people to understand that no matter what, we’re in this thing together. It’s more about being a human being at this point.”
Bennett, who’s father was a U.S. Army sergeant, wanted to make it clear that his protest was not a stance against military officials in any form, but rather a challenge for those “uncomfortable” to get involved in understanding their community.
“First of all, I want to make sure that people understand I love the military. My father was in the military. 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. And I just want to see people have equality that they deserve.”
It comes a day after former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch sat on a cooler on the Oakland Raiders' bench area before their game with the Arizona Cardinals. When asked about it, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Lynch told him that he has been sitting on the bench for the anthem for 11 years and that he was just "being myself."
The action of players during the playing of the anthem has gained more scrutiny since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat and, later, kneeled for the national anthem before every game in 2016. He cited what he saw as racial and social injustice in America. He has since said he will stand for the anthem going forward. He is currently a free agent, and some have speculated he has been black balled for his actions last season.
As happened with Kaepernick during last season, Bennett received a mix of praise and criticism for his decision.
@mosesbread72 STAND THE F UP— Lawson parkhurst (@law_park404) August 14, 2017