Seahawks stars Michael Bennett, Russell Wilson speak on athletes’ social responsibility

Jul 31, 2016, 2:21 PM | Updated: Aug 3, 2016, 2:43 pm

Michael Bennett has been ruled out of Sunday's game in New Orleans....

Michael Bennett has been ruled out of Sunday's game in New Orleans.

The Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive lineman Michael Bennett has been using his standing as a professional athlete to champion social causes for some time. As the Seahawks opened training camp this weekend, he took it a step further – and he wasn’t alone.

In perhaps his most overt statement yet, Bennett took the podium after Saturday’s practice wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt and explained why he stands behind that particular movement.

“It means everything to me. I mean, it’s about social change and change economically and just change. You know, with everything that’s going on in society right now you just want to be a good advocate for speaking up when things are going wrong. Making sure the youth have great influences and being a professional athlete you want to be a great influence,” Bennett said.

Henderson: Bennett not a distraction, reports to Seahawks training camp

You don’t have to listen to Bennett for long to see how seriously he takes being a role model for younger generations. If he’s not talking about Black Lives Matter, it’s very likely he is addressing the importance of nutrition or explaining the responsibility that athletes have in setting a good example and using their celebrity to promote social justice.

“You don’t want to show bad character because so many people look up to you as role models, especially in the communities that most of us grew up in. So I just want to be a great role model and a great influence. That’s from on the field, to wherever I market, whatever I do for me, and whatever I do for the community – that’s all that is important. Finding a way to touch young kids and help them … but in a way of just helping out the community.”

One teammate who agrees with Bennett about that responsibility is quarterback Russell Wilson, even if they go about it in different ways.

“Well I think we all have a responsibility,” Wilson said. “It’s not just on athletes, it’s not just on coaches, it’s not just on anybody in particular. It’s on all of us. I think ultimately it comes down to love and appreciating one another and respect for one another. Black lives obviously matter, of course they do and we have to treat it that way. Also, police lives matter, too, and everybody’s lives matter. I think about it like I don’t want it to be my kids one day, that’s really where you kind of feel it and that’s the way you have to think about it for all of us. It’s an appreciation for society, an appreciation for the country we live in, an appreciation for the towns and cities that we live in. Ultimately, it comes down to all of us to make sure we appreciate one another.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he welcomes discourse about issues other than football in the locker room, and he seemed proud that his players are willing to take a stand.

“I am grateful that our guys are working at their thoughts and they’re working at what they’re saying and they are trying to come to their own decisions on how things fit and it’s not clear,” said Carroll, who added that he’s spoke to some individual players about the Black Lives Matter movement and plans to talk to a bigger group about it later in training camp. “People think very differently about all of the things that have been going on and it’s a good thing. There will be time and I look forward to those discussions when it happens.”

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