BY Art Thiel 09:35PM 08/18/2017

Britt lends a hand to Bennett’s anthem protest

As DE Michael Bennett sat on the bench for the anthem, C Justin Britt stood by him with a hand on his shoulder. CB Jeremy Lane stood in front of both, back to the field.

Justin Britt (68) stands alongside as Michael Bennett (72) sits on the bench during the anthem at the Clink Friday night. Jeremy Lane (20) has his back to the field. / Art Thiel, Sportspress

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.”


  • Effzee

    Weirdly, this is going to quiet a lot of people. Now that a couple of white players have said “I agree,” its going to legitimize the whole thing. Sad that it might have taken that to shift the dialog. The merits of the matter should stand on their own.

    • Matt Kite

      Agreed, If white players begin joining the protests en masse, the act of defiance becomes less contentious because everyone will more or less be on the same page. Kudos to Britt, Long, and others who find the courage to stand (or kneel) with their teammates. I wonder if they’ll earn the same degree of enmity as their black teammates. Probably not. That’s the world we live in, alas.

      • art thiel

        Charlottesville and Trump’s incredible response to it galvanized many fence-sitters. There’s no equivocating this horror and the enabler in chief.

        • Effzee

          Note the lack of outrage when the white guy joins in.

    • art thiel

      Bennett said in spring that for this to become meaningful to many, white guys have to show up. The real game-changer would be Aaron Rodgers.

  • SoDo Slayer

    I would anticipate this NFL movement will grow and be more inclusive. A hunch. A hope. National politics will force this to the surface. Can not be denied.

    • art thiel

      Sports has helped lead social change in the past. So it shall again.

  • DAntoniWaltz

    Timing of this was interesting. A day after securing a $27 Million deal, I’d stand next to anyone too….

    • art thiel

      Job security helps with the risk-taking.