RENTON Michael Bennett says he will continue to sit during the national anthem.
“I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing,” he said Wednesday. “And the consequences are the consequences, I guess, of teams not wanting guys to play. I think about what Jerry Jones said; I think it is crazy.”
The Dallas Cowboys’ owner has said any of his players that don’t stand for the anthem won’t play for his team.
Bennett on Wednesday was at odds with what commissioner Roger Goodell was saying in New York at the conclusions of two days of meetings with NFL owners and, on Tuesday, players.
“Another issue we spent a great deal of time talking about (Wednesday) morning (with owners) was how much we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. That is an important part of our policy, it's also an important part of our game that we all take great pride in,” Goodell said. “It is also important for us to honor the flag and our country. Our fans expect us to do that. That is something that we continued to focus on (Wednesday) morning. We are really talking about the opportunity that exists with our players to try to go and really make a difference in our communities in a positive way...
“We need to keep the focus on the fact that we believe that our players should stand for the national anthem. That is an important part of our game and an important moment and we believe in that. We also have to focus on the fact that we have six or seven players that are involved with the protest at this point and what we try to do is deal with the underlying issue and understand what it is they are protesting and what we can do to address that. The important thing for us is to be able to do that and take that opportunity to make real differences in our communities. That is really what will ultimately be the important aspect for us long-term. This is a long-term issue and we need to be sure that we do that in the right way.”
Bennett has a right way. He says no real progress will be made with the NFL on players’ concerns over equality for minorities the need for police reform until after the league addresses quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s continued unemployment.
Wearing a red, “EQUALITY” hoodie, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive end did not from other side of the country on Wednesday portray the optimism the 13 players that met with commissioner Roger Goodell and 11 NFL team owners did in New York on Tuesday.
“I talked to the players in the owners’ meeting,” Bennett said before practice for Sunday’s game at the New York Giants. “I think the first step to even being able to even have a conversation is making sure that Colin Kaepernick gets the opportunity to play in the NFL.”
Kaepernick, a Super Bowl starter for San Francisco 4 1/2 years ago, remains unsigned six weeks into this regular season. He was the first player to take a knee during the national anthem at games last year to raise awareness to equality for minorities and issues of police brutality and shootings across America. He’s become a martyr to the causes for which Bennett’s been advocating--and sitting during anthems.
It’s a tricky proposal Bennett is making. Just when the league and Goodell are talking more than they ever have about addressing and supporting the causes Bennett, teammate Doug Baldwin and many other NFL players are highlighting, just when the league is wanting to push past the national controversy over players sitting or kneeling during the anthem, Bennett sets as a condition the hiring of the most polarizing figure in the country on this issue. And he says he’s still sitting, regardless.
Then again, Bennett is also capitalizing on the new momentum in his and his players’ causes--at least awareness of them--in the highest levels of the NFL.
“I think before we even negotiate anything--should we sit or should we stand--there should be a negotiation about opening up the doors for Colin Kaepernick and giving him the opportunity again,” Bennett said. “Because I feel like through everything that’s been lost. I feel like all of us are having the opportunities to speak to our employers, but then to think about the guy who started everything not to be able to have a voice at this moment it just doesn’t seem very right to me.
“But to be able to talk about being able to give him some kind of opportunity, some kind of way, there has to be owners who are willing to accept what we are doing and trying to make a change then the change has to start with him having the opportunity and the chance to play. For me, that’s the first step, before we make any kind of decisions, is that we have to bring up that issue and be able to talk about it.
“Why doesn’t he have a job? If you look at the quarterbacks playing in the NFL right now, I can’t name one, among the backups, I can’t name one better than him... Before we can move forward, that’s something we need to address as a league and address as players and the NFLPA. Because if it can happen to one of our own, how can we fight for what we want? We need to protect the people who play next to us. That’s something we need to make sure we across to the owners and Roger and the rest of the guys.”
Bennett said “I think that was brought up” by the 13 players in New York that met with Goodell and the 11 team owners Tuesday, “but I think they didn’t really get deep into it.
“There needs to be a deep conversation about this. Whether it’s not happening and he’s not going to play again, or whether they open the doors up. But I think there needs to be some kind of resolution what’s going on.
I asked Bennett if he feared advocating for Kaepernick’s employment right now might derail the message he’s been trumpeting since he first sat during the anthem in mid-August before the first preseason game.
“That’s not derailing the message. That’s part of the message,” Bennett said. “What we brought up, he started the message. And for us to forget who started the message I think, it’s not...I think we are not following our brotherhood...we need to make sure we bring that up.
“If we are going to talk about the message, the guy who brought it up can’t be sacrificed.”
Kaepernick’s attorney announced last week his intention to file a grievance on the players’ behalf against the league and its owners for colluding against signing him for the 2017 season.