EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Seattle Seahawks players continued to protest by refusing to stand for the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, and defensive end Michael Bennett said the ongoing unemployment of quarterback Colin Kaepernick is among the issues that he wants to see addressed with the league.
But Bennett said after the Seahawks’ triumph over the Giants that Kaepernick being signed is not the only unresolved issue tied to the dialogue between NFL players and owners amid the ongoing protests during the anthem by him and his teammates.
“It’s always been broader than that,” Bennett said. “It’s always been about justice and discrimination in America, police brutality, women’s rights, all these different issues — clean water; Flint, Michigan — issues that are pertaining to America that we all need to pay attention to because it’s not that it happens to one of us that [means] it’s important. It’s important every single day regardless of what we’ve got going on.”
Bennett was among eight Seahawks players in uniform who sat on the bench during the anthem Sunday; one other player was kneeling nearby.
The Seahawks’ protest Sunday came after NFL owners and players met Tuesday in New York to discuss social issues and community activism. The owners ended their two-day meeting Wednesday without enacting a measure requiring players to stand for the anthem, despite pressure by President Trump and some fans calling for that. However, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and owners expressed the belief that players should stand.
Bennett said there were no formal deliberations among Seahawks players about what they’d do Sunday in reaction to last week’s developments within the league.
“There were no conversations,” Bennett said. “It was the same old, same old. People just have conversations every day because racism and discrimination is a common topic in America. So a lot of people just talk about it. I think the NFL is just making it another conversation where everybody is at home and wondering what they can do to affect the nation and finding a way to have a positive impact on their communities. I think that’s what we’re focusing on right now.”
Kaepernick, who began the players’ protest movement last season while with the San Francisco 49ers, has not been signed and has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding against him.
“I’m hoping he has an opportunity to play,” Bennett said Sunday. “Obviously I believe that he’s had an impact in the country. You see what he started, taking a knee, and how he’s affected the communities from young children to even older Americans and finding a way to have an impact. I believe that if this conversation is happening with the commissioner and happening with our employers, his job situation should be brought up and it should have some kind of resolution.”
Bennett is among a group of players who have had conversations with Goodell about league support of players’ community activism. But he was not in New York for last week’s meeting with owners.
“I wasn’t there so I don’t really know what exactly happened there,” Bennett said. “Obviously there was supposed to be good talk there. But for me, like I said, it’s about you never want to leave a person behind. That’s just the way that we are as a brotherhood in the NFL. So I think it’s really important that we make sure that we talk about one of our own and give him the opportunity to be able to compete at something that he loves. He shouldn’t be sacrificed because he brought up a different issue that nobody wanted to talk about. Now it’s a relevant talking point so I feel like he should have the opportunity.”
Bennett said he has spoken to Kaepernick “once a week” and knows that Kaepernick is prepared for an opportunity to be on an NFL roster.
“I know he’s ready to play,” Bennett said. “I’ve seen him. He’s built. He’s in shape. If given the opportunity, I think he’s ready to succeed for any team.”
The Arizona Cardinals are the latest team with a vacancy after their starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, was hurt Sunday.
“I hope there’s an opportunity,” Bennett said. “The Cardinals are a pretty good team. We’ll see what happens. You never know. I don’t hold the glass ball to see when he’ll get an opportunity. But like I said, every single player wants him to get an opportunity. What he brought up is now a relevant talking point. We want to make sure that he gets his opportunity.”
Representatives of the owners and players are scheduled to meet again soon, and Bennett said he thinks Kaepernick’s job status should be discussed at that meeting if it’s not resolved by then.
“I think we should go meet and talk about that issue and talk about the other issues and bring it up,” he said. “I don’t really care for the word owner. But I like the word employer. So when you get a chance to talk to your employer and get the opportunity to bring up what you want to make a change in, I think one of the changes should be bringing Kaepernick in.”
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