RENTON The social-equality causes that have led to Michael Bennett sitting during national anthems this season are also part of why he is this year’s Seahawks nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
Bennett’s gone to inner cities across our country listening to needs and pushing for better treatment of minorities.
He’s gone to the Great Plains to visit Standing Rock in the Sioux tribe’s fight against our government’s plans for the Dakota Access pipeline through its land.
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He’s gone to Haiti to help Seahawks teammate and fellow Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril build schools and homes on the impoverished island.
He makes regular Friday visits to the King County Juvenile Youth Services Center in Seattle, which houses the county’s juvenile court, juvenile jail and related services.
His The Bennett Foundation combats obsesity and advocates for the advancement of women. Bennett’s foundation partners with iamtheCODE to provide 100 marginalized girls in Africa entrance into STEAMED programs (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, entrepreneurship and design).
All that is why the Seahawks announced Thursday Bennett is their Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominee, named in honor of the late Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back.
Three nominees from each of the league’s 32 teams will be selected as finalists in late January. The NFL will announce the 2017 winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in Minneapolis on Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl 52 there.
“First of all, I want to make sure that people understand I love the military. My father was in the military. I love hot dogs, like any other American, I love football like any other American,” Bennett said in August when he first began sitting during the anthem.
“But I don’t love segregation. I don’t love riots. I don’t love oppression. I don’t love gender slander. And I just want to see people have equality that they deserve.”
Beginning with Sunday’s game at Jacksonville, Bennett will wear a will wear a Man of the Year decal on his helmet through the end of the season.
Nominees receive from the NFL and United Way Worldwide a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice plus another $50,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook. That is a digital learning initiative started by the NFL and the United Way. It teaches student skills for developing character and positive relationships in their everyday lives.