SEATTLE — Michael Bennett once again sat during the national anthem before the Seattle Seahawks preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday. But this time, he had company, with Justin Britt standing next to him.
Britt put his arm on Bennett’s left shoulder during the anthem. Afterward, the teammates embraced.
“I want to support him,” Britt said after the Seahawks’ 20-13 win. “I want to support what he stands for and his beliefs. I’m not foolish. I’m from Missouri. I get that things are different in that area than they are in some other areas. I’m not against what the flag means and veterans. My dad was in the Army. So 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.
“And 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’s what should be happening. I’m going to continue talking with Mike and exploring and just helping myself understand things. I wanted to take a first step tonight. And that’s what I felt like I did.”
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Bennett first sat during the national anthem before the Seahawks’ preseason opener against the Los Angeles Chargers last weekend. He said that the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, were a tipping point for him and that he wanted to use his platform to promote justice and equality.
Earlier this week, on ESPN’s SC6, Bennett called for a white player to join the protest that seeks to call attention to social injustice.
Britt, who is white, said those words affected him.
“What Mike said, and how he said a white player should do it, that kind of triggered in my mind, because I see what’s going on,” Britt said. “We all do. And we all have choices whether to be an example or be a follower. I always tell kids: Don’t be a follower. Be the one they’re following. So 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 trying to encourage others.”
Bennett said he was touched by Britt’s support.
“A very emotional moment to have that kind of solidarity from someone like Justin Britt, who’s a known leader in our locker room, who’s from a different part of America than me,” Bennett said. “But to be able to have that solidarity and to be able to have somebody who is behind me and know that it’s someone that I really trust, and to see him put everything on the line to support one of his teammates, I thought that was a very special moment.”
Seahawks lineman Michael Bennett, seated, had called on a white player to join his continuing protest of the national anthem. Before Friday’s preseason game, center Justin Britt stood alongside Bennett in support. AP Photo/Scott Eklund
Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane stood close to Britt and Bennett on Friday night. He had his back to the field and the flag during the anthem. During last year’s preseason, Lane sat for the national anthem to show support for Colin Kaepernick.
This was the second straight night an NFL preseason game had this type of gesture. Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Chris Long put his hand on Malcolm Jenkins’ shoulder while the anthem played before the team’s preseason win over the Buffalo Bills on Thursday.
Britt said he approached Bennett beforehand to make sure he was OK with what he wanted to do. Britt said he might sit with Bennett in the future.
Pete Carroll didn’t see the gesture, but he heard about it and said he was proud of his players.
“I think in this time that we’re facing, this is more important than ever,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of growth that needs to take place for us to accomplish the change that needs to be dealt with. It’s absolutely imperative that guys from both sides of the fence come together and learn and be open and support. And these guys are going to show you that. They’re working at it. They understand that there’s issues and concerns that we have difficulty talking about. But I know our team is working at it, and they’re determined to try and make things better by the way they all share their own connection and learn how to make statements and understand and be respectful towards one another.
“I particularly like that that was the illustration. It warmed my heart to hear that that’s what happened. Those guys got some brains. They’re thinking about it. They’re thinking about it very seriously. This is not just some frivolous thing where somebody made a mistake and sat down. This is guys working at it and guys trying to figure out how to help and how to make some sense for other people too. We’re just a football team, but our guys care, and I’m really proud of them.”