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Seahawks’ Michael Bennett sits for the national anthem, says he plans to do so all season

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett walks off the field following practice on June 13.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett did not stand for the national anthem before the Seahawks’ exhibition game against the Chargers on Sunday and said he doesn’t plan to at all this season.

“With everything that’s been going on the last couple of months and especially after the last couple of days, seeing everything in Virginia, seeing what’s going on out there earlier today in Seattle, I just wanted to be able to use my platform to be able to continue to speak over injustice,” Bennett said after the 48-7 Seahawks victory.

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Bennett’s move came a day after a woman died when a man drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-demonstrators at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. On Sunday, tensions flared in downtown Seattle between supporters of President Trump and counter-protesters.

“I think everybody has a time where they feel like they need to be who they are and stand up for what they believe in,” Bennett said.

In Bennett’s case, that meant sitting down during the national anthem while the rest of his teammates stood. The previous day, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch protested in the same manner.

Bennett said: “First of all, I want people to 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, but I don’t love segregation. I don’t love riots. I don’t love oppression. I don’t love gender slander. I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve and I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message and keep finding out how unselfish we can be in society, how we can continuously love one another and understand that people are different.

“And just because people are different doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t like them. Just because they don’t eat what you eat, just because they don’t pray to the same God you pray to doesn’t mean you should hate them. Whether it is Muslim, whether it is Buddhist, whether it is Christianity, I just want people to understand that no matter what, we need to stay together. It’s more about being a human being at this point.”

Last season, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not stand during the national anthem all year, sitting on the bench at first and then taking a knee. He opted out of his contract with the 49ers in March and has not landed a job since. Many feel he is being blackballed from the NFL because of his protests.

Bennett said he’s ready for the same treatment.

“Of course I’m going to face backlash,” Bennett said. “This is bigger than me. This is bigger than football. This is bigger than anything that we have. This is about people. This is about bringing opportunities to people, giving people equality. This is bigger than a sport.”

charles.schilken@latimes.com

Twitter: @chewkiii


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