Seattle Seahawks defensive end, Michael Bennett, shows that the issue of NFL players kneeling for the national anthem isn’t as cut-and-dry as one might think.
Before Thursday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, Bennett decided to stand for the national anthem. Previously, the defensive end has sat down during the anthem.
Bennett became one of the faces of the NFL protests. Previously, he vowed to sit during the national anthem for the entire football season. He made this vow even before President Trump expressed his opinion that players should be fired for kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner.
The defensive end is the son of a Navy veteran, so he was raised with respect for the men and women in uniform. Thursday was “Salute for Service Night,” which is an event intended to honor United States veterans. Bennett also stood for the anthem on Veterans Day.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Thursday marked the first time all season that Bennett stood for the national anthem. The rest of his team also stood.
The reason NFL players have either kneeled or sat during the Star Spangled Banner is to protest alleged police brutality against black Americans. While Bennett believes in the objective of the protests, he also understands the importance of respecting the military.
“It was to signify that we are all with the military, and that we love them,” he said in an interview with the Tacoma News Tribune. “There’s been this narrative that we don’t care about the military. Today, we were honoring the military, so we wanted to be able to honor the military.
The defensive end also stated that the protests have “never been about the military.” He added, “If there is an opportunity to support them and be grateful for what they do, and the sacrifices, we want to be able to do that.”
While Bennett does plan to sit for the national anthem at other games, he has stated that this will not be the last time he will stand during the Star Spangled Banner. On November 20, the Seahawks will host their “Salute to Service” game against the Atlanta Falcons. “This is Veterans Day weekend. And next weekend is Salute to Service,” Bennett said. “I am going to stand up for that game, too, to honor them.”
The NFL protests have been the subject of a heated national debate since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, began kneeling for the playing of the anthem. The argument subsided earlier this year, but was brought back onto the public stage when President Trump stated that players who kneel for the anthem should be fired.
There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue, and good Americans can disagree on whether the NFL players’ method of protest is appropriate. Nevertheless, it is important that both sides truly understand one another — and mutual understanding is something that is missing from our current political discourse.
Those who oppose kneeling for the national anthem accuse the players of not respecting American soldiers. While this accusation might apply to some who support these protests, the majority of kneeling players have stated that they do not intend to disrespect the United States or its troops — they only wish to bring awareness to a perceived injustice.
On the other hand, supporters of the protesting players label those with whom they disagree as bigots who are uninterested in the plight of American minorities. Are there some who oppose the protests as a result of bigotry? Perhaps, but these individuals are few. The majority of those who oppose the protests take issue with the way the NFL players are protesting — not the fact that they are protesting in the first place.
Bennett’s decision to stand during the national anthem shows that he can express his opinion while still having respect for US armed forces. Hopefully, people like him can help other Americans engage in debate without demonizing one another.