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Pete Carroll disagrees with sitting for national anthem but knows Michael Bennett’s ‘heart is in a great place’

RENTON – Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday that while he believes everyone should stand for the national anthem, he supports defensive lineman Michael Bennett in his decision to sit.

In a move that caught Carroll and Seahawks teammates by surprise, Bennett remained seated during the anthem before the Seahawks’ preseason opener Sunday night against the Chargers in Carson, Calif., saying afterward that he did so – and will continue to do so – in the name of equality.

Carroll said he’s spoken with Bennett a couple times since then. While he disagrees with sitting during the anthem, he knows Bennett well enough to understand that “his heart is in a great place.”

“I support the heck out of his concerns and his issues and all that,” Carroll said. “When it comes to it, I love our country and I think we should all stand for the opportunities when the flag is represented. But … his heart is in a great place and he’s going to do great work well after the time he’s with us, and it’s easy for me to support him and his issues. But I think we should all be standing up when we’re playing the national anthem.”

O’Neil and Salk: Consider Bennett’s message, not just his method

Bennett told reporters Sunday night that he plans to continue sitting during the anthem, though Carroll said Tuesday that Bennett hasn’t indicated that to him.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin applauded Bennett’s decision and the way he expressed his reasoning afterward. Baldwin said there’s no issue in Seattle’s locker room with it and said he has “absolutely” considered joining him in sitting for the anthem. While being careful not to speak on Bennett’s behalf – he was not available to local media Tuesday – Baldwin said he knows that Bennett’s purpose is to “better our society” and not to be divisive or negative.

“We’re going to have a conversation here shortly,” Baldwin said about possibly joining Bennett in sitting for the anthem. “We try to do things as a team, as a family. We’ll see how we can support Mike in this situation.”

Bennett and several other Seahawks were supportive of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he and some of his San Francisco teammates knelt during the anthem last season in protest of social injustices in America. Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat before the team’s final preseason game last year before the team decided it would stand and lock arms during the anthem throughout the season in what it called a show of unity.

Former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who was out of the NFL last year and is now with the Raiders, sat during the anthem before Oakland’s preseason game Saturday night. That game was played a few hours after a woman was killed and several other people were injured while protesting against a while nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Bennett told reporters Sunday night that he had been considering sitting for the anthem for a few months and specifically mentioned the events in Charlottesville.

Bennett has been outspoken on other social issues during his time with the Seahawks. He’s also heavily involved in charitable work locally and abroad, something Carroll mentioned in the context of what Bennett is trying to accomplish by sitting for the anthem.

“Mike’s heart is in such a great place. He has already done so much work to try to understand where he can help, and he’s doing marvelous things in our community here,” Carroll said. “He’s been overseas, he’s been to Africa, he’s been to Haiti, he’s spent time in the Badlands, the Native American communities so that he can understand. He’s done a lot more work than most people would ever be able to do in a lifetime in trying to understand where he can help and what he could possibly do. He’s a very unique person, a very amazing guy.”

That Carroll supports Bennett despite a personal opposition to not standing for the national anthem speaks to the freedom that the Seahawks give their players to express themselves as individuals. Carroll knows that Bennett’s decision to express himself in this particular way is going to draw strong objection.

“I’ll continue to support him and help in every way,” Carroll said. “We’ll visit regularly and hopefully we can help him make sense of all of the things that come his way.”