BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots’ involvement in the protests that were staged by players during the playing of the national anthem was relatively short. Outside of the one notable weekend — Week 3 vs. Houston in 2017, immediately after President Donald Trump made antagonistic comments to players who had been protesting — the Patriots have not really been a focal point when it came to players protesting. That movement, largely, has subsided.
But with last week’s acquisition of Michael Bennett, that is set to change.
The 33-year-old veteran defensive lineman has in the past chosen to sit during the playing of the national anthem, a decision that was made in 2017 after the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Va. He began that protest when he was a member of the Seahawks in 2017, and he continued it as a member of the Eagles in 2018.
Bennett said Monday night that he intends to continue taking that stance in 2019 when he’s a member of the Patriots.
“I explained to [Patriots executives] that my integrity mean everything. I think they respect that about me, they respect who I am as an individual,” Bennett said during a speaking event at Princeton University, per ESPN.com.
Rather than taking a knee or sitting on the bench, Bennett said that he’ll stay in the locker room during the national anthem, and then take the field once the song has been completed. Last year, the NFL instituted a new rule that gave players the option of remaining in the locker room. Kneeling or sitting during the anthem on the field would have resulted in the team being fined.
With regard to the relationships that Trump has with owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady, Bennett said he looks forward to having discussions with his new bosses and co-workers. The author of a book titled “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable,” Bennett does not intend on shying away from any topics.
“I think it’s important not to to run away from those conversations, or not hear their ideas about why they think the way they do,” Bennett said, per ESPN. “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.”
When Bennett began his protest in 2017, he tried to make clear what message he was attempting to send.
“I just wanted to be able to use my platform to be able to continuously speak on injustice,” Bennett said in August 2017. “First of all, I want people to understand that I love the military. My father’s in the military. I love hot dogs like any other American. I love football like any other American. But I don’t love segregation. I don’t love riots or oppression. I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve. And I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message of that.”
At that same time, Bennett added: “I’m being vulnerable right now. There’s a whole bunch of people sitting at home judging me, but they will never get to this point where they can be vulnerable. Let people attack me because they don’t believe what I believe in, but at the end of the day, I’m being vulnerable to show every person that no matter [what] you believe in, keep fighting for it. Keep fighting for equality. Keep fighting for oppressed people. And keep trying to change society.”
As for the football aspect of his most recent life change, Bennett said he’s looking forward to playing for Belichick — aka the Yoda of football.
“From a football perspective there’s a respect for Belichick. I consider him the Yoda of football when it comes to the ins and outs of what’s happening around how to prepare for a game,” Bennett said, per ESPN.com. “The Patriots are a team that people love to hate because they always win. The opportunity to learn from that and be in that environment is good.”