RENTON Agree or disagree with Michael Bennett’s protests and positions--and to be sure many across the country have done both, loudly--it’s tough to assail this logic.
"Is there really a time that we shouldn't be talking about equality?” the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive end said Thursday. “Is there really a time that we should be talking about racial discrimination? Is there really a time that we shouldn’t be talking about women’s equality? Is there really a time that we shouldn’t be talking about water issues for Native American peoples? When is there not the time to talk about that?
“We find time to talk about the Kardashians. We find time to talk about fantasy football.
“But when do you find the time to talk about the realities of America, and realities of being a great human being and making a better world for our kids?
“There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”
Bennett was speaking about why he and the Seahawks are using the anthem, in particular, as their time to protest, as opposed to an undefined but less controversial way to get their views noticed.
Then he took a day of rest from practice on Thursday for Sunday night’s home game against Indianapolis. It will be the first game for Seattle since the team’s “revolutionary, life-changing” act of deciding to stay in its locker room during the national anthem last weekend before the Seahawks played at the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
Wednesday, he and teammate Doug Baldwin went on CNN for a televised, “town-hall” style talk on his, the Seahawks’ and NFL players’ protests during the national anthem at games of the mistreatment of minorities and need for police reform in our society.
"I would like to challenge every American that is watching this show to treat people better," Bennett told the CNN host, Anderson Cooper, on the live broadcast. “That’s the first step.
“The changes start with the heart. This is not a violent protest. This is a peaceful protest. We are challenging people spiritually, not physically, spiritually to change the way you have been doing. Change the culture.”
Thursday, Bennett said the culture nurtured in the Seahawks’ locker room by coach Pete Carroll helped grow his protest he picked up last month after Colin Kaepernick took a knee during anthems last season into a league-wide effort that’s been national news every day since last weekend.
And international news. On Tuesday alone the Australian Broadcasting Corporation plus outlets in Ireland and Canada interviewed me asking about Bennett’s and the Seahawks’ movement seeking social equality and change.
“What makes this team well-qualified, I feel like, is the organization,” Bennett said. “I think this is an organization who gets it, who gets that this is more than the game. There’s more to people as they grow. They get the culture, and they get the moment right now. We have a lot of great people. When you have a leader like Pete Carroll who understands people, who takes the time to listen, you have a platform to be able to have constant dialogue with the head person in charge.
“That doesn’t happen very often. For them to believe in what you believe in, is truly a blessing. And I’m actually humbled to have an organization that would put themselves on the line to be able for us to speak about these issues. A lot of times, we speak about issues like this, people get turned off, people don’t want to listen. But to constantly have the back end of your head coach and organization, and good ownership, I think that’s something that’s really good, too.”
This week Bennett said he would like to meet with President Donald Trump and discuss their differences. Trump has been railing against the NFL since his remarks Friday at a rally in Alabama. He said NFL owners should “fire” any player that protests during the anthem, and that anyone who does is a “son of a bitch.”
I asked Bennett why he wants to talk to Trump, and what the activist and football star thinks he’d get out of such a meeting.
“I just think that it has to be dialogue between the people who disagree with you and what you believe in to have a conversation about why did he say the certain things,” Bennett said. “To be able to have that dialogue is important.
“I hate to write him off and just have an opinion about him before you get a chance to have a conversation. For me, it’s always about that.”
Has he officially reached out the The White House and channels to Trump about a formal meeting with the president?
“No, I haven’t reached out to him. Too busy,” Bennett said, with a grin. “There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world.”
About Bennett seeking the chance for a conversation from those with potentially opposing views from his: KING-5 television in Seattle reported this week Bennett stopped his car on the road outside Seahawks headquarters, got out and talked to a group of military veterans that were outside the team’s facility Wednesday morning. Many Americans have been angered by Bennett sitting for the anthem, saying it disrespects the country, current and former members of the military and the United States flag.
KING-5 reported the scene brought to tears a military wife who happened to be passing by on the road at the time.
“My reaction for that was an inspiring reaction,” Bennett, the son of a U.S. Navy enlisted man, said. “I think every day, I challenge myself spiritually and mentally to constantly grow, and those experiences that you run into people like that, are times where you grow as a person. Because you get a chance to actually hear what people really want to talk to you about, and you get to see their emotions and you get to see a person change as you talk to them. For me, I cherish those moments. I’m humbled and I’m grateful for opportunities when I get a time to meet people and a time for somebody to express themselves to me and a time where I can express myself to them.
“Not in a violent matter, but in just a human matter where it’s like ‘Look, I get what you’re saying, but do you get what I’m saying?’ If we don’t agree, then we can gracefully disagree, but still have respect for each other, regardless of our skin color or gender. It doesn’t matter. It’s just about that ability to be able to be uncomfortable and to be vulnerable in front of people. (It) is something that doesn’t happen very often for people in this day and time.”
“I was just driving and I saw protesters, and for me, it was like, it could be dangerous to walk in front of people because you never know what people are thinking. For me, you just have to believe that people are good, and I believe that the fellowship between man is important and the ability to be able to go there and sit there and just talk to people and hear their stories and for them to hear my stories.
“I never walked a mile in their shoes. I don’t know what it feels like to be in a war, and I don’t know what it feels like to lose a brother in battle.
“But I do know what it feels like to be a black man. I do know what it feels like to be a minority. So to be able to express what I’m feeling and express what they’re feeling, is a common ground where we can have great and constant dialogue.”