SEATTLE It was about the time the ink dried on his new extension deal that Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt turned his attention to another serious issue Friday.
Racial and social injustice.
Five days after teammate Michael Bennett sat down in protest during the playing of the national anthem before the team’s first preseason game against the Chargers, Britt decided to join the cause.
Before the Seahawks’ 20-13 victory over Minnesota at CenturyLink Field Friday night, the 26-year-old Missouri native stood next to Bennett during the anthem.
As Bennett again sat on the team bench, Britt placed his right hand on the defensive lineman’s left shoulder.
“I am going to try and understand what is going on in the world, and why it is happening,” Britt said. “None of it is right. None of it is what should be happening.
“I wanted to take the first step tonight, and I felt like I did.”
This all started last weekend when riots broke out during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. One woman was killed.
Telling no teammate or coach what he planned to do, Bennett sat with a towel over his head while all others stood during the national anthem before Seattle’s preseason opener at the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday.
This week, Bennett called for a white player to join him in the protest, saying it would make it more impacting, and would increase understanding across racial lines.
“What Mike said, and how he … thought a white player should do it, that kind of triggered in my mnd because I see what is going on,” Britt said. “We all do. We all have choices whether to be an example or be a follower.”
Britt said he and his wife, Alicia, discussed the topic the past couple of days — including Thursday when he officially signed the three-year, $27 million extension that makes him the tied for the third-highest paid center in the NFL in annual contract value.
Britt then informed Bennett of his intentions, and asked if it was OK to join the protest.
“I figured all eyes were on me and Mike — especially me being over there draws more attention,” Britt said. “That is kind of the purpose, to make people nervous and make them not ignore it.”
Coach Pete Carroll said he did not see what was going on behind him before the game, but added, “it is absolutely imperative that guys from both of the fence come together and learn and be open and support. And these guys are going to show you that. They are working it. They understand that there are issues and concerns that we have difficulty talking about. But I know our team is working at it. They are determined to make thing better. ...
“I particularly like that that was the illustration (a white Seahawks star supporting a black one). ... It warmed my heart to hear that’s what happened. Those guys, they’ve got some brains, thinking about it. They are taking it very seriously. This is not just some frivolous thing where someone made a mistake and sat down and did it. Guys are working and trying to figure out how to help, and how to make some sense for other people, too.
“We are just a football team. But our guys care. And I am really proud of them.”
Britt said he will continue to support Bennett in the same way before future games.
“I’m going to continue to support Mike and support everything about it. As I learn more, I might sit with him if things don’t get better and things don’t improve. But right now I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing.”