Sunday, Michael Bennett chose not to stand during the national anthem prior to the Seattle Seahawks preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Here, in his own words, is why, as told to Yahoo Sports’ Jordan Schultz.
I’ve been thinking about sitting during the national anthem for a minute, especially after everything that’s been happening the last couple weeks. It’s just been so crazy right now, and I felt like the conversation wasn’t over. I felt like this needed to be a continuous thing that’s going on. I know it offends a lot of people, that’s why I kept it straightforward. I love America, I love hot dogs, I love everything about it.
I thought about it right up to the beginning of the game, and finally decided not to stand because it just felt right.
Everybody’s supportive as usual, because people know I genuinely care about people and care about the way that the world is. I think I’m just a regular human being that’s wiling to be vulnerable in that way.
Not a lot of people are willing to stand up and say what they believe in. They might say they love the Seahawks, they might say they love the Boston Red Sox, they might say they love Mercedes cars, but not everybody is willing to say that they hate injustice. It’s kind of one of those things where you’ll be ridiculed if you bring something like that up in any place, so it’s hard to do.
I really had to think about what I was doing. It was one of those things like, ‘Yeah, you’re really doing it. You’re really putting yourself out there to be attacked. You’re really stepping out. Are you ready for what’s going to happen? Are you ready for what people are going to say?’
So far, everything’s been positive.
Going forward, I want to continuously just push the message of equality. I want to reach that level where people are connected and understanding people and reaching for that uncomfortable spot where I’m understanding somebody that’s being different. Going out in the community, people trying to change the community. People lending a helping hand, lending things to other people to give them the opportunity.
My goal, my hope, is more action. Say less, do more.
I think I’m at the point where spiritually, this is what you do. You dedicate your life to helping make change and using your platform to do it. You continuously have to be on that path to keep going, challenging yourself to do it. I think I’m inspired to keep doing more, even with all the hate going on. I’m inspired to keep trying to make a change.
I know some people won’t like it, but that doesn’t bother me. It’s a part of life, I think. Everybody’s going to attack you. If you’re in the game, you’re being attacked. I think being a sports star, you need to learn about fans, learn about people. The ups and downs of people, their beliefs – people feel one way one day and then change the next day. Sticking to who you are is, I think, the most important thing.
It didn’t surprise me that Marshawn Lynch sat, too. I think he’s one of the people in the forefront who are making changes in the community. That’s what he believes in. I think we both believe in our community, we both believe that people can be great. We don’t believe that this is the end; we believe there’s more out there – there are more things we can do as people, more ways to challenge ourselves.
For me, I think wanting to make a difference started as a kid. I was always helping around, help doing things. I was on my grandpa’s farm, just doing stuff for the community. I got it from my parents. I think growing up reading about Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and all these people, it really helped me cultivate what to do with my platform.
I always looked up to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, John Carlos. All these guys do so much.
Now I look at Colin Kaepernick and all these people who do so much in the community and raising the bar of what we can do as athletes and what we can do as people. Do we forget our story and our journey and recreate who we are? Or do we connect our story to where we are now to be able to give other kids opportunities?
People want to keep you on the field. Everyone cares about what you do on the field and not what you’re doing as a man or a father or a person. Every question is about sports and sometimes it can get annoying because you can kind of lose your identity within sports.
When you get in the position on a platform where you get a chance to give back and create opportunities for others, that’s where I want my legacy to be. Over the last four or five years, my story has been shared more than in the past. I want to create opportunities for others. I want to raise the bar about what we can do as athletes and people. I think that’s where I want my legacy to be and that’s where it has been cultivated.
I think there’s lots of stuff that happens around the country. You want to figure out how you can have an impact. And when something happens, you have to be able to stand up and find a way to connect with people. For me, it’s more about the connecting. For example, what happened with Charleena Lyles, the mother of four children who was shot and killed by two Seattle police officers, doesn’t really tell the story of Seattle. It tells the story of a particular incident, but it doesn’t tell the story of the people, and how people are connected and want to make a change.
People are inspired by each other and want to help each other, and I think that’s the message that I really want to speak to clearly. It’s about how do we connect with each other and remember that we’re all people, and we all want to be a part of this great thing we call life, and this great thing we call love.
Related coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Dan Wetzel: Is it time to divorce the anthem from sports?
• NFL chief Roger Goodell weighs in on player protests
• Marshawn Lynch slammed for anthem protest
• Charles Robinson: Why Lynch is wrong to hang the Raiders out to dry