Michael Bennett, former Buccaneer, and current Seahawks player, sat on the bench during The National Anthem on Sunday, while his teammates stood, locking arms, before a preseason game against the Chargers. And while he is aware he may face backlash, much like Colin Kaepernick did during the 2016 NFL season, he says he plans to sit throughout the 2017 season in protest to the recent events in Charlottesville, stating in an interview with ESPN, “I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve, and I want to use this platform to continuously push the message of that,” he said. “It’s more about being a human being at this point.”
Following Kapernick’s protest last season, Bucs Wide Receiver, Mike Evans, followed suit by sitting during the Anthem in protest to Donald Trump’s election. However, after receiving backlash, he quickly apologized to the Military members, stating that his intention was not to offend their efforts and stated that he will continue to stand with his teammates during the anthem going forward. “If I had to do it over again, I would have done it differently, but I would still use my platform to help”, he said. “It was a salute to service game. Looking back on it, I probably would have done it a different way.”
Bennett’s former teammate and current player for the Oakland Raiders, Marshawn Lynch, also sat during the anthem on Saturday before their preseason opener against the Cardinals, also in protest of the recent events in Charlottesville. And while Lynch did not personally comment on the matter, Raiders coach, Jack Del Rio, made a statement after the game. “On Marshawn, talked to Marshawn trying to make sure we’re on the same page,” Del Rio said. “He said, ‘This is something I’ve done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself.’ I said, ‘So you understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem. But I’m going to respect you as a man, you do your thing. We’ll do ours.’ It’s a non-issue for me.”
Social media was buzzing with some upset over the recent actions of Bennett and Lynch, others were defending their right to protest.
Twitter user, @my5thaccoutsmh wrote, “I respect Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett and Kaepernick for sticking to what they believe in no matter what, more athletes should sit too.”
@ShaunKing also wrote, “Thank you to Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) of the Seattle Seahawks for taking a seat during the National Anthem.”
However, not everyone was happy about their decision to sit.
@DennisB33785592 wrote, “Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch, done with you both. Keep dividing this country. NFL better get a grip. Not watching either team.”
Also Facebook user, Jeanne M commented on a news article post, “This is so disrespectful. Everyone should stand for the National Anthem. Not an option.”
The topic of whether or not the players should be allowed to choose to stand, sit or kneel during the Anthem has been a hot topic issue that even has some die hard fans deciding to tune out during games and boycotting the NFL, while others have chosen to tune in, in support of the players. There doesn’t seem to be a gray area when discussing the matter.