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Michael Bennett tells CNN he’s not protesting the flag, ‘won’t stand until I feel like everything’s equal’

Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett tells CNN that his decision to sit for the national anthem isn’t meant to dishonor the American flag but to bring a greater spotlight upon the issues the country is facing.

In an interview with Jake Tapper that aired Wednesday, Bennett said he’ll continue to sit.

“I won’t stand until I feel like everything’s equal, I won’t stand until everybody has justice, I won’t stand until everybody has freedom, the things that American is built on,” he said. “I think protesting the national anthem begins a conversation about the truth of America. I’m not protesting the flag. I’m actually trying to honor what we’re supposed to be honoring, the freedom of America, the equality of America, the justice for all and the liberty. Those are the things that I’m trying to remind people that we all fought for, the forefathers. We said we would fight against terrorists, domestic and foreign, and right now there’s whole bunch of domestic terrorism, domestic hate going on …

“So I want to bring up those issues and create those conversations and get people off their butt and go out and try to act and fix the problems and go out and work with people of different races, different colors, different sexes, different genders, whatever it is, just go out and try to find out how to help instead of being a problem and sitting back and being silent. I think at this point, if you’re silent right now, you’re being dishonest about the truth of what’s going on.”

Bennett sat on the bench at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Sunday night during the national anthem ahead of Seattle’s preseason opener against the Chargers. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday that he supports Bennett’s decision to sit but believes everyone should stand for the anthem.

Bennett told CNN that he made his decision after seeing what happened Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

“I couldn’t do it anymore,” he said. “I had to be able to stand up and I thought that it was the right thing to do for me.”

Bennett was asked what he’d say to military families who have lost love ones in combat and view his protest as a sign of disrespect because of what the flag means to them.

“My father was in the military, a lot of my family was in the military, I’ve got friends who are vets, who’ve been through war, who’ve done it all and like I said at the beginning, I honor the military,” he said. “I do stuff for kids in Hawaii (where he lives in the offseason) and the military bases, I’ve lived on a military base, I grew up in a military family.

“I would say I honor the military every time I see them, and at this point, like I said, I’m actually not dishonoring the contributions that they made if somebody loses their life. I’m actually trying to honor that. I’m honoring the freedom and liberty that they’ve fought for to be able to have that. That’s the thing I’m really trying to honor. I’m not trying to dishonor the flag. I’m more about the principles, honoring the principles that America was built on and it’s the liberty, freedom and justice.

“And like I said, I cannot stand until I see equality and freedom every day.”