After talking with his wife, Justin Britt decided to support Michael Bennett’s anthem protest because he wants to understand “what is going wrong” in America.
If it were possible for an exhibition football game result to be more irrelevant than usual, the Seahawks’ 20-13 triumph Friday night at the Clink over the Minnesota Vikings qualified, on two opposite counts.
The first was that LT George Fant will need right knee surgery and be lost for the season, temporarily derailing one of the most improbable of Seahawks personnel stories, as well as the hopes for a big uptick on the capabilities of the offensive line.
The second was that white guy Justin Britt helped break a color barrier by supporting black guy Michael Bennett’s anthem protest when he stood (not sat) with him — and said he sought to learn from Bennett about why America is so deeply fractured.
“I’m going to continue to educate myself and try to understand why things are going wrong,” Britt said at his locker, surrounded by media. “None of it is right, and none of it should be happening.
“I want to support him, support his beliefs. I’m not foolish. I’m from Missouri. I get that things are different in that area. I’m not against what the flag means, and veterans. My dad was in the army, so I’m not putting any disrespect to them. I wanted to take the first step tonight.”
Bennett sat for the anthem Sunday in Los Angeles in the Seahawks’ first preseason game and became a national story. He was grateful that Britt answered his request for white players to step forward to create some biracial momentum in the wake of the bloody clash in Charlottesville, VA., that shocked the nation and the world.
“His support was super important,” said Bennett. “It was a very emotional moment to have that kind of solidarity from someone like Justin Britt, who’s a very known leader in our locker room.
“I think it’s going to give a lot of other players courage to move forward and keep trying to share that message of love and unity . . . A lot of players are at a tipping point. Charlottesville was a tipping point for a lot of Americans in general.”
Asked if he warned Britt of the backlash, Bennett said he had.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Bennett said he asked Britt. “Not everybody is willing to stand up for something like this. Sometimes, you lose a lot. You lose sponsors, you lose people, you lose fans, because you’re fighting for something.”
Britt said the impetus to join Bennett came after talking with his wife, Alicia.
“We both wanted show support to Mike,” he said. “I talked with him before and made sure it was all right with him, and of course it was . . . hopefully what I do encourages others to go out and look at it, and really see what’s going on, instead of being blind to it.”
Britt, a state high school wrestling champion as well as a two-year football starter at the University of Missouri, signed this week a three-year contract extension, the first O-lineman to get a second contract in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era. He said his decision wasn’t as much about a new leadership position with the team, yet he also believes in being out front.
“I always tell kids, don’t be a follower, be the one who’s followed,” he said. “Whether it’s good or bad in some eyes, I feel like I’m just supporting my teammates.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Carroll indicated he was not in the loop about what was happening between Britt and Bennett.
“Probably about the same time you did,” he told reporters when asked when he learned the plan. “I know that those guys were talking about some stuff. I wasn’t sure exactly. I didn’t see (the anthem gesture) but I was told that it was a demonstration of support from his teammates.”
If Carroll didn’t lead it, he was behind what happened.
“I think in this time we’re facing right now, this is more important than ever,” He said. “I don’t know how it all looked (on the sidelines) but it is absolutely imperative that guys form both sides of the fence come together. They understand there’s issues and concerns that we have difficulty talking about.
“It warmed my heart to hear that’s what happened. Those guys have some brains; they’re thinking about it. Were just a football team, but our guys care, and I’m really proud of them.”
A strange night: A game of little consequence, a moment of dramatic political meaning that has national importance, and a loss for the season of a player whose story and substance personify the club.
Said Carroll: “Heartbroken.”