Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has become the face of this season’s NFL anthem protests.
In August, Bennett sat for the national anthem before the first preseason game, saying he would continue to do so all season. “I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve. And I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message of that,” he said.
Days later, Bennett called for white players to join the protest movement, saying, “I honestly believe that it would take a white player to really get things changed.” Several followed his lead, including the Eagles’ Chris Long and the Browns’ Seth DeValve.
In the Seahawks’ Sept. 17 game against the 49ers, Bennett became the first player to take his protest onto the field, raising his fist in a “black power” salute after a sack.
He also accused Las Vegas police of racial profiling after an incident in August in which officers answering a shooting call chased and detained him. The police union described his claims as “obvious false allegations,” saying video footage proved he had run when he saw the officers and ignored their demands that he stop.
On Wednesday night, Bennett took his activism to a CNN town hall, where he issued a challenge to viewers.
“I would like to challenge every American watching this show to treat people better, that’s really what it’s about,” Bennett said. “It’s about treating people like human beings. That’s the first step.”
— CNN (@CNN) September 28, 2017
“The first step is to recognize and see somebody as an equal being when you recognize them,” he continued. “It’s no way that a woman should feel less human than a man. There’s no way that a black person should feel less human than a white man.
“Everybody should be seen equal, and until that happens and everybody sees what we’re fighting for — it’s the truth and the reality of what we want and less about the flag — then there’s never going to be a change. And the changes starts with our heart. This is not a violent protest. This is a peaceful protest. We’re challenging people spiritually — not physically — spiritually to change the way that you been doing, change the culture.”
The anthem protests started last season with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick but have picked up steam since President Donald Trump said players who don’t stand for the anthem should be fired.
The Seahawks took their protest to a larger scale during their Week 3 loss to the Tennessee Titans, as both teams refused to leave the locker room until the anthem was over.
The team released an official statement after the game, saying, “We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country.”
— Seattle Seahawks (@seahawksPR) September 24, 2017
It’s unclear how Bennett and his teammates will protest Sunday when they host the Indianapolis Colts.
“I think that last week was about making a statement, and I think moving forward, it’s about making a difference,” coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday.
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