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Volume 24 No. 178
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Seahawks' Bennett Earning Support Around The NFL For Protesting National Anthem

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" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 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). ESPN.com'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" (ESPN.com, 8/15).