RENTON They came wearing black T-shirts with “I am Charleena” printed in white on the front, “#sayhername” on the back.
The family of Charleena Lyles came to Seahawks practice because of Michael Bennett.
The Pro Bowl defensive end invited the relatives of the pregnant mother of four Seattle police officers shot and killed in her Seattle apartment in June, an incident that splintered and in many ways still splinter the city. Lyles’ family toured Seahawks headquarters on Thursday and watched the indoor workout. After practice, Bennett chatted breezily with the family along the sideline.
At one point, with no other player besides Bennett remaining on the field, quarterback Russell Wilson came over.
“What’s up guys?” Wilson said, cheerily, with his arm and right hand extended for a greeting. “I’m Russ.”
Bennett didn’t advertise he had guests. A team staffer provided that information, and only after he got asked then had to ask a colleague.
Lyles called Seattle police on a Sunday morning in June to report a burglary. A police report stated officers knew her to have mental-health issues. The report stated that shortly after officers arrived Lyles pulled a knife. The officers shot her.
Bennett and his wife Pele co-hosted a rally and benefit with Lyles’ family in Seattle’s Judkins Park on July 29, the day before Seahawks began training-camp practices, according to a Facebook posting on the event which was sponsored by the King County NAACP and the nonprofit organization Not This Time.
Minutes before Bennett began chatting with Lyles’ family Thursday, Bennett was posing for pictures with a boy from the Washington and Alaska chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation; the Seahawks regularly host Make-A-Wish participants at practices. Bennett took the football he and other Seahawks had autographed for the boy and played catch with him in the middle of the field.
“Catch that ball!” Bennett called out as he lofted a pass to the kid of about 15 yards.
After the boy caught it, Bennett yelled: “Yesssss!”
At that moment, the indoor facility didn’t need lights. Not with that boy’s smile.
Say what you will -- and have, and will continue to -- about Bennett’s protest of the national anthem he vows to continue Friday night before the exhibition game at CenturyLink Field against Minnesota and until there is “equity and freedom” for all minorities in this country. The issue of not standing for the anthem is a complicated one, with valid points on both sides.
Bennett’s main argument throughout this week -- throughout his activism of the last year that didn’t get the attention his sitting Sunday before the Seahawks-Chargers preseason game in California did -- has been this: It’s not the act of protest, of sitting during the anthem. It’s the why he’s doing it.
It’s the action he is doing. In minority communities from Seattle to Honolulu to Washington, D.C., to Haiti to Standing Rock, the Sioux tribe in a legal fight this summer with the government over the Dakota Access pipeline through its land.
Again, absolutely, this is a complicated and delicate issue, one with many sides and sensitivities.
Another one was on display behind closed door at Seahawks’ practice on Thursday.