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Volume 24 No. 134

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll yesterday said that he was "caught off-guard" when DE Michael Bennett "decided not to stand for the national anthem on Sunday ... and that he thinks everyone should stand for the anthem," according to Loh & Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES. Carroll did say that he "supports Bennett taking a stand and that the two have talked several times since Sunday." He was unsure if Bennett "will continue to sit during the anthem, though Bennett said after the game Sunday that he intended to sit for the rest of the season." Carroll said that the team will have a plan by Friday's preseason game against the Vikings on "how it will approach the anthem." He said, "We should all stand for the opportunity when the flag is represented. But the fact that his heart is in a great place and he is going to do great work long after this time (in the NFL), it's easy for me to support him in his issues. But I think we should all be standing up when we are playing the national anthem" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/16). Carroll said that he and Bennett have had "extended conversations as they try to 'make sense' of his decision's fallout." Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin said that he "considered joining Bennett." Baldwin: "We're going to have a conversation here shortly, and again, we try to do thing as a team and a family. We'll see how we can support Mike in this situation" (USA TODAY, 8/16). Raiders LB Bruce Irvin is "undecided if he'll do any sort of protest this season," though he had a "long conversation" with Bennett, his former teammate. Irvin: "When you do something like that, you have got to back it up, you've got to know what you're going to say, you've got to give a reason why you're doing it" (USA TODAY, 8/16).

MAKING HIS MESSAGE KNOWN: Bennett in a special to YAHOO SPORTS wrote he thought about sitting for the national anthem "right up to the beginning" of Sunday's game against the Chargers, and finally "decided not to stand because it just felt right." He wrote people's responses to have have "been positive." Bennett: "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." Bennett noted his goal is "more action." Bennett: "Say less, do more." He added there is "lots of stuff that happens around the country" and he wants to figure out how he can "have an impact." Bennett: "When something happens, you have to be able to stand up and find a way to connect with people" (, 8/15). Seahawks DE Cliff Avril said of Bennett, "I can appreciate a man that no matter what the circumstances are, no matter what people are going to think, no matter what people are going to say, his morals and what he thinks is right to him, he's going to stand up for it" (AP, 8/15). In Tacoma, Gregg Bell notes Bennett's protest is aimed to help "bring more attention to how minorities of all kinds are treated in our country." To that end, it "appears to be working: Bennett was getting interviewed by CNN" following yesterday's practice, something that was not happening "last week" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 8/16).

FOR THE GOOD OF THE TEAM? In Seattle, Matt Calkins writes the decision about how to act while the national anthem plays before a game is "not a team thing." That choice should be "completely up to the individual." Whether people agree with Bennett's views or actions, it is "hard to deny he is trying to make a difference." His involvement in the community has "earned him the credibility to protest, as has his explanation for doing so." A team-wide decision to stand during the anthem "might save a few fans, but it would also upset supporters of Bennett who think he's implementing change" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/16). However, in Tacoma, John McGrath writes there is a "problem about this 'platform'" of Bennett's, as he "belongs to a team." Bennett has "ample opportunities to serve as a change agent preaching justice for all: Seven months during the off-season, six full days a week between August and January." During the time he is playing for the Seahawks on gamedays, his "ambitiously virtuous platform should be limited to the mundane matter of winning a football game." Bennett's voice is "loud and clear, defiantly candid and yet consistently humane." McGrath: "But once a week, for three and a half hours, nothing should matter more to Michael Bennett than participating in football games and their attendant rituals" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 8/15).

USING THEIR PLATFORM: In L.A., Lindsey Thiry noted Rams LB Robert Quinn "stood on the sideline and raised a fist during the playing of the national anthem before Saturday's preseason game against the Cowboys, continuing a practice he started last season." Quinn said, "It's not to cause a scene. To me, it's more awareness and a sense don't forget where you came from." Quinn said that he discussed raising a fist with coach Sean McVay to "ensure he would not become a distraction." McVay, like former Rams coach Jeff Fisher, "insisted that he stand with the team," but "did not discourage him from expressing himself" (L.A. TIMES, 8/15).'s Ian O'Connor wrote active players protesting during the playing of the anthem by sitting "understand there might very well be a financial penalty to pay." O'Connor: "Yet they make their powerful statements, the consequences be damned." They are "shining a spotlight on everyday inequities that confront black Americans in our economic, educational and justice systems, and they're doing so in a sport governed by white billionaires and a league culture that strongly encourages 24/7 conformity." People who tell players like Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins to "stand at attention, lower their fists and stick to playing football so badly miss the point." Sports is an "entirely appropriate place to address these issues" (, 8/15).

The NFL is "relaxing its strict guidelines on footwear" in a continuing effort to allow players to "greater express their personality," according to Darren Rovell of A league memo sent yesterday to coaches and equipment managers shows that players will be "allowed to wear more personalized cleats for pre-game prior to warm-ups and will have greater flexibility on cleat color worn during the game." Players during warm-ups can "wear any design they want, so long as it doesn't depict commercialized or trademarked logos, other than the league-approved footwear brands (Nike, Under Armour and Adidas)." The cleats also "can't have anything that would be deemed offensive or express political views." The league previously fined players who "wore non-conforming cleats in pregame." The NFL "relaxed its rules for a week in 2016, allowing players to design their own cleats for a charity of their choice in Week 13" (, 8/15).

YOU MIGHT BE ON TO SOMETHING: MLB later the month will hold its Players Weekend in which players can wear jerseys with nicknames on them, and in Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote he would be in favor of a similar promo in the NHL "so I could see Kaner and Tayser on the same team with Keefer and Crow." Simmons: "Or you could watch the Leafs with Gards and Riels and Matts and Andy and Brownie" (TORONTO SUN, 8/13).

The USTA has given Maria Sharapova a wild-card entry into the main U.S. Open draw, meaning she is set to play later this month "in a Grand Slam event for the first time since the Australian Open" in January '16, according to Matt Bonesteel of the WASHINGTON POST. Sharapova's year-long drug suspension ended in April, but she "did not play in either the French Open or Wimbledon." Her presence in N.Y. "should be a boost for the U.S. Open and ESPN, its broadcast partner, which now will get a big-name player for the Serena Williams-less women’s field" (, 8/15). Sharapova's return will "add some star power" to the U.S. Open, as Williams, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka are all "out of this year's tournament" (, 8/15). The AP reported the USTA "didn’t consider her suspension in awarding the wild card, saying it was following past practice of granting them to former U.S. Open champions who needed them." The organization added that Sharapova had "volunteered to speak to young players at the USTA national campus about the importance of the tennis anti-doping program and the responsibility each player has to comply with it" (AP, 8/15).

LACK OF UNITY? In London, Simon Briggs writes the move displays the "lack of unity among tennis’s governing bodies." The USTA's decision "contradicts the stance taken by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) in May, when Sharapova was refused special treatment at Roland Garros." While the All England Club "never had to make a call, owing to Sharapova’s decision not to request a wild card for Wimbledon, it was common knowledge that she was going to have to fight her way through the qualifying event." The USTA "always looked as if they might take a less hawkish position, and that has now proved to be the case" (London TELEGRAPH, 8/16). In N.Y., Ben Rothenberg reports the USTA has "less discretion with its wild cards than other Grand Slam federations." Five of the eight "available are predetermined." Two go to Tennis Australia and the FTF in a "reciprocal swap," while another is "allotted for the NCAA singles champion if it is an American." A fourth "goes to the winner of the 18-and-under junior national championship," and the fifth "goes to the player who has accumulated the most ranking points in a set of tournaments over the summer, called the U.S. Open Wild Card Challenge" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/16).