Michael Bennett calls for white players to join anthem protest to spark change

Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has firmly embedded himself in the often-heated conversation about race relations and the general treatment of other human beings with his protest of the national anthem during the 2017 NFL preseason. Bennett has never shied away from such topics and is not shying away now. The perennially-underrated defender is getting support from his teammates in Seattle and is willing to push the conversation forward. 

In an appearance on ESPN's "SC6" with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, Bennett took things one more step down the road, saying he believes the NFL needs white player to step forward and speak out. 

"It would take a white player to really get things changed," Bennett said. "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."

Bennett's specific issue is the vitriol emerging between people of different races in this country, which hit a peak over the weekend with the horrific violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

"Over the weekend, so much violence, so much hate," Bennett said Wednesday. "I just wanted to remember why we were American citizens, remember the freedom, the liberty and the equality, make sure we never forget that. I really wanted to honor that, the founding principles of what we're all supposed to be. Charlottesville was so crazy, so much going on in the world now, it just made sense."

The Seahawks defender preached kindness between individuals when he explained why he would continue to sit for the national anthem throughout the 2017 season.

"Whether it's Muslim or Buddhists or Christianity, whatever it is, I just want people to understand that no matter what, we're in this thing together," Bennett said after the preseason game. "It's more about being a human being at this point."

Part of the problem with finding a "white player" willing to speak out, Bennett believes, is the backlash against Colin Kaepernick. Bennett has previously stated he believes Kap is being blackballed by the NFL and said Wednesday he believes "players were scared" of the reaction Kaepernick received.

"He had to sacrifice. He spoke up and dealt with a lot of things that were going on -- from death threats, people not wanting him in the stadium, people hating him," Bennett said. "I think a lot of players were scared of that. Then on top of that, players feeling like he was being blackballed, people were eventually scared.

"But now, just because he's out of the league, we didn't want to lose that message, pushing for liberty and equality for everybody. We just wanted to keep that message alive."

This is a story that, like Kaepernick last year, is not going to melt into the maw of the regular season. On Wednesday, 49ers general manager John Lynch said that NFL players have the right to protest during the national anthem but called their actions "divisive." Bennett is taking a stand for something he believes in and it's going to continue drawing plenty of attention. Hopefully it's good attention and something positive comes from his decision. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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