GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 10: Michael Bennett #72 of the Seattle Seahawks sits on the bench during the national anthem prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett – who sat during the national anthem for weeks – shook hands with military veterans outside the team’s practice space this week, as photos on social media show.
Dayna Mink Coats wrote on Facebook that when driving near the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Washington on Tuesday, she saw a parked car in the middle of the road.
“I thought it might be a car accident so I snapped a picture. As I got closer, I realized it was group of military veterans who had assembled in front of the VMAC,” Coats wrote. “Mostly all seniors who had probably seen the battlefield firsthand. They were proudly wearing their veteran’s hats, jackets and some carried American flags. The car in the middle of the road … it was Michael Bennett’s.”
Coats said as she drove by the veterans and Bennett shaking hands, she became emotional. So she pulled over in tears.
“A few of the veterans came over to see if I was OK and behind them walked up Michael Bennett,” Coats wrote. “I was unprepared and not expecting this situation in my morning. But with eyes welled up with tears and speaking from my heart … I simply said, ‘Michael, I am so torn and I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to disrespect our country, our flag or my husband who’s in the military but I want to understand. I’m a big Seahawks fan and I don’t know what to do.’ He reached in and hugged me.”
They talked for nearly 20 minutes, and Bennett explained how he had family in the military too. His father served 10 years in the U.S. Navy.
“The word unity was used several times and he admitted he didn’t know where to go from here. I do not know either,” Coats wrote. “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.”
The entire Seahawks team also didn’t participate during the anthem and waitedin the locker room before their game against the Tennessee Titans.
Over the last year, Bennett has been a leader of the national anthem protests started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Before Trump’s comments on the NFL, Bennett gave this reason for his protesting:
“I have always held the strong conviction that protesting or standing up for justice is just simply the right thing to do. This fact is unequivocally, without question, why before every game, I sit during the national anthem – because equality doesn’t live in this country, and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have or have much you give, when you are seen as a ‘n*****,' you will be treated that way."
Pete Carroll supports his players and Bennett. At a news conference Monday, Carroll told reporters he understands why people are upset with the protests, but he hopes that they listen.
"It is not about denigration of the flag or our country," Carroll said. "We all can learn what we want to learn out of this, but I hope we learn about empathy."