Seahawks' Michael Bennett Believes A White Player Needs To Protest For Change To Occur
Seahawks DE Michael Bennett believes it will "take a white player" to protest during the national anthem to "really get things changed." Appearing yesterday on ESPN's "SportsCenter," Bennett said, "When somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak about it, it will change the whole conversation, because you bring somebody who doesn’t really have to be a part of the conversation to make themselves vulnerable in front of it. When that happens, things will really take a big jump." Bennett sat during the anthem during the Seahawks' preseason opener last Sunday and plans to do so the entire NFL season. He said, "Just because someone speaks about equality and they speak about justice and ... freedom, it rubs people the wrong way. That shows you there’s this institutional way of thinking. Even some reporters wrote that I don't belong to me, I belong to the Seahawks, so I don’t have the right to be able to speak about different things. To me, that was nonsense" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 8/16). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said it "would be nice" to see white players "get actively involved, to step out and address the kinds of things that ail us as a society and prevent us from coming together as one." Smith: "The flip side to it is, if you are a white American, what obligation do you have? They could legitimately ask that question as a professional athlete." ESPN's Max Kellerman asked, "White players, where you at, baby? What is going on here?" He added it "depends on the white player," though it "would be very helpful" to the cause. Kellerman: "It would show solidarity across racial barriers or divides, particularly at this time in our nation's history, particularly with recent events” (“First Take,” ESPN, 8/17). NBC's Mike Florio said the "real key here" is to get a franchise QB involved regardless of his race. Florio: "You get franchise quarterbacks onboard for this, and that’s when it becomes something much harder for mainstream fans to ignore” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 8/17).
ON THE PLAYING FIELD: THE ATHLETIC's Tim Kawakami reports 49ers GM John Lynch "believes players should stand for the anthem and he strongly doesn't like any protest involving the anthem." Lynch said, "When I see (players protesting during the anthem), I think that's divisive. And I understand guys see things they're not happy (about), and they have that right. And I think we'll always respect people's rights. That doesn't mean I believe that. I believe that this game should actually be celebrated for what it is -- I think a tremendous unifier for our country." However, Lynch also "suggested he wouldn't prevent such a protest." Kawakami noted Lynch is "now in a very powerful position." Kawakami: "Do these comments mean that he could base a personnel decision on his feelings about a potential anthem-protester?" If Lynch "cuts a protesting player and keeps a less valuable player -- just because of the protest -- then Lynch will have failed his team and failed as a GM" (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/16). NBC Sports Bay Area's Ray Ratto said Lynch is "conflating patriotism and sports." Ratto: "Sports has its myths and then it has its reality, and the reality is that sports does not guide society. Sports mirrors it, and right now, this is a very fractious time in the United States of America, very similar to the way it was in the '60s” (“The Happy Hour,” NBC Sports Bay Area, 8/16).
COACH SPEAK: In N.Y., Daniel Popper reports Jets coach Todd Bowles believes it is a player's "individual right" to protest. Bowles said, "We don’t have a rulebook on what’s right to protest and not protest. ... Whether it’s sitting for the anthem, whether it’s raising your first, whether it’s speaking out, whether it’s a walk to Washington, who’s to say whose protest is good or bad, you know?" He said that he has "talked with his squad about anthem protests." Bowles "doesn’t believe it will be divisive" if a player or players decide to protest, though he does not know of anyone who plans to do so (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/17). In Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. notes no Cowboys player has "expressed an interest" in protesting during the anthem. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has "made his feelings clear on what he wants from the team during the anthem." He said, "There's no question in my mind -- the national anthem is sacred, the flag is sacred. Our team has demonstrated that." Garrett added that he has "no problem with his players expressing themselves regarding social issues" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/16). Packers coach Mike McCarthy said that he addressed the issue of protesting during the national anthem and his "expectation of proper decorum during it with the players via a preseason presentation" (MADISON.com, 8/17).
THE TIME IS NOW: In DC, Jerry Brewer writes the activists in the NFL, and all of sports, are "multiplying." Bennett and Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch "sat during the anthem before recent preseason games," while Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins and Rams LB Robert Quinn "raised their fists." Cavaliers F LeBron James, "perhaps the most influential active American sports icon, spread a message of love during a charity event and called out President Trump for his poor response to the Charlottesville tragedy." There are other sports figures "making pleas for change, just like so many concerned citizens." Fans should "expect many more to speak out" in the coming weeks and months, as the days of the "docile black athlete are over." This "isn’t a time to stick to sports." The national anthem is about two minutes long, and "if you think that’s too much of a distraction from sports ... you’re living an awfully petty life" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/17).