The day after Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat out the national anthem, his former team-mate Michael Bennett has followed his lead.
The Seattle Seahawks defensive end, who is known for his strong views, sat with a towel draped over his head during the anthem before Sunday’s game against the Los Chargers. Bennett said he plans to continue the protest for the rest of the season, and his stance was influenced by the far-right violence in Charlottesville over the weekend. Colin Kaepernick attracted attention when he chose to kneel for the anthem last season as a protest at racial injustice in the United States.
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“The last week, with everything that’s been going on in the last couple months—especially after the last couple days seeing everything in [Charlottesville] Virginia… [I] just wanted to be able to continue to use my platform to be able to speak on injustice,” Bennett said after Sunday’s game.
Kaepernick was accused by some of disrespecting the military when he refused to stand, and Bennett emphasized he respected the armed forces.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Bennett and Lynch are likely to be joined by others players. Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman says he has spoken to five other players who plan to protest this season after the Charlottesville violence, and Donald Trump’s failure to condemn far-right protestors. The trouble in Charlottesville, during which a woman was killed after a car was driven into anti-racism protesters, drew criticism from a number of athletes. The Philadelphia Eagles defensive end, Chris Long, called the far-right protestors “man babies with torches”.
Bennett has spoken out about political issues in the past. Kaepernick has yet to find a new team following his season of protest, and Bennett says the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s story highlights the racial divide in the NFL. “Obviously, there’s the elephant in the room why Kaepernick isn’t signed, and most people know why,” Bennett said in June. “I’ve said this several times, and I’m not afraid to say it: I think race and politics in sports is something people don’t want to hear about, nor do people want to be a part of.”
Almost 70% of NFL players are black but a white player is yet to join the anthem protest. Bennett says that he has been writing a book, titled Things That Make White People Uncomfortable. “I think the title is just a title to start a conversation so people want to read it,” Bennett said. “The book I’m focusing on is issues that I see that are important in America, and they are my views and opinion.”
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