NFL star Michael Bennett, 33, has made clear that when he joins the Patriots, he plans to remain in the locker room next season during the national anthem.
The Patriots will reportedly finalize a trade for the Eagles defensive end this week, and Bennett explained in a speech at Princeton on Monday night that the team understands his “integrity” matters most.
“I explained to them is that my integrity means everything,” Bennett said, according to ESPN. “I think they respect that about me, they respect who I am as an individual.”
The NFL star has never held back from saying what’s on his mind. In 2018, he released his autobiography titled “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.” In it, he explained why most NFL players are Black: “I never thought I was going to the NFL. I never believed, ‘This is exactly what I want to do. This is the dream.’ But when you’re big and Black, the grown-ups push you to play sports. They take an interest that is hard to ignore or resist.”
That push from the grownups helped pave the way for Bennett to play 10 seasons in the NFL, including winning the Super Bowl with Seattle in 2013.
Bennett began to silently protest during the national anthem shortly after Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid took a knee.
“I think it’s important not to run away from those conversations, or not hear their ideas about why they think the way they do,” Bennett said Monday about his decision to sit out during the playing of the anthem. “I think it’s an opportunity for growth to have those conversations. If we don’t allow ourselves to have those conversations, we’re stunting our growth.”
In the “Athletes for Impact” chapter of his autobiography, he writes:
“We need everyone on the playing field who is conscious to come together in a single organization to support each other when we speak out. We need to have each other’s backs and we need to be willing to act, together. So much value in our society is placed on the individual. The ‘great man’ myth is a big part of our culture. Everyone is supposed to rise or fall on their own hard work and achievement. But social change requires solidarity, even – if not especially – in the world of sports.”
The Patriots will acquire Bennett in a trade with the Eagles that will be made official on Wednesday, the start of the new league year.