DE Michael Bennett kept to his plan of sitting out the national anthem, but was joined, surprisingly, at the bench by C Justin Britt, who stood to his left with a hand on Bennett’s shoulder Friday night before the Seahawks-Vikings exhibition game at the Clink.
Standing in front of the pair was CB Jeremy Lane, who had his back to the giant flag across the field’s north end. As the anthem ended, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark came over to Bennett as he stood.
The rest of the Seahawks stood along the sidelines with locked arms, a custom the team began last year after then-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s anthem sit-out began a national controversy.
Bennett sat for the anthem at Sunday’s preseason game in Los Angeles, a day after a clash between white nationalists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, VA., left one woman dead and a dozen injured. He vowed afterward to stick with the protest until change happened.
“I can’t stand for the national anthem,” Bennett told CNN Tuesday. “I can’t stand right now. I’m not going to be standing until I see the equality and freedom.” He said what happened in Charlottesville “had a lot to do with” his decision, which neither his teammates nor coach Pete Carroll knew was coming.
Bennett also said it would take white players to join the protest to make a difference.
“It would take a white player to really get things changed,” he told ESPN. “Because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it . . . it would change the whole conversation.
“Because when you bring somebody who doesn’t have to be a part of (the) conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump.”
Whether the gesture by Britt, who signed a three-year contract extension earlier in the week, counts as a protest or merely support of a teammate remains to be defined.
Thursday night in Philadelphia, a similar gesture happened when FS Malcolm Jenkins raised his fist at the anthem, which he has done before. This time he was joined by teammate Chris Long, a white player who draped his arm over his teammate’s shoulders.
“I just told Malcolm, ‘I’m here for you,'” Long told reporters after the game. “I think it’s a good time for people that look like me to be here for people that are fighting for equality.”
Friday on the NFL Network, Long, who went to high school in Charlottesville and attended college at the University of Virginia, elaborated.
“For me, I felt like I’ve always tried to do things off the field that promote equality, but this week I thought maybe a symbolic gesture might be what was poignant for me personally,” Long said. “I approached Malcolm and said I don’t want to step on your toes but I’m here to support you, and you being a black male in America.
“I can never imagine what that feels like in the face of this stuff, but I’m here as your ally and I’m here to support you.”
Jenkins Thursday night said he thanked Long.
“This is a moment in time where he feels the need to kind of take that step and lead,” he said. “I appreciate that.”