Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said the conversation about anthem protests would change if white players became part of the movement.
“It would take a white player to really get things changed,” Bennett said Wednesday on ESPN’s SC6, “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.”
Bennett said he had been thinking about sitting for the anthem all summer but made the decision over the weekend, following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Over the weekend, so much violence, so much hate,” Bennett said. “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.”
Bennett said some players were scared off by the experience of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the movement last season and is now without a job in football.
“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. “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.
“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.”
Bennett said that the same way players sell products, they can sell the thought processes behind freedom and equality to kids.
“Instead of just inspiring them to be athletes,” he said, “we can inspire them to be change-makers.”
Bennett said the Seahawks had military guests on their campus Wednesday, and many came to give him hugs and medallions and said 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.”