Michael Bennett explains why he stood for the anthem for the first time all season

For the first time all season, Michael Bennett stood for the national anthem. The Seahawks defensive end, who had been sitting during the anthem to protest social inequality and the need for police reform, made the decision to stand before Thursday night's matchup against the Cardinals to honor the military ahead of Veterans Day.

"It was to signify that we are all with the military, and that we love them," Bennett told Greg Bell of 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.

"I know a lot of people did not expect us to stand. They have this narrative about us that is not true. I have a lot of family that were military. It's never been about the military. 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."

Moments earlier, Bennett told reporters, "We want to show gratitude for the men and women who serve this country. Today was one of those times we were able to show our support for them, what they do for us, how they sacrifice for their families. That's what it was about."

Last month, in the wake of constant criticism from President Donald Trump and pressure for the NFL to mandate players stand for the anthem, Bennett said he would continue to sit despite any repercussions.

"I plan on sitting down," Bennett said at the time.  "Like I said, I'll continue to do what I've been doing. The consequences are the consequences."

Bennett added that any negotiation between the league and its players as it relates to the anthem should only happen after an NFL team signs Colin Kaepernick who, depending on who you ask, has been blackballed for his decision to kneel during the anthem last season. He has been a free agent since March and hasn't even had a workout, despite several teams having needs at quarterback. 

But weeks before those remarks, Bennett spotted a group of military veterans outside the team's facility and he stopped to talk to  them. A witness was driving by saw Bennett and one of the veterans smiling and shaking hands.

That image brought an unexpected wave of extreme emotion over me and I instantly and almost uncontrollably started bawling," Dayna Coats wrote on Facebook at the time. 

Coats drew the attention of the veterans and Bennett, who wanted to make sure she was OK.  Coats, whose husband is in the military, told Bennett her concerns about the anthem protest. The Seahawks player hugged her and said he too had family members in the military.

"The word unity was used several times and he admitted he didn't know where to go from here," Coates wrote of her conversation with Bennett. "I do not know either. Nor do I know what the correct answers are ... but I do know, I am thankful for those veterans and thankful Michael stopped to talk with them ... and inadvertently me."

So will Bennet continue to stand for the anthem?

"This is Veterans' Day weekend," he told Bell. "And next weekend is Salute to Service (for the Seahawks). I am going to stand up for that game, too, to honor them."

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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