NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For Michael Bennett, this Seahawks Sunday was like no other.
It was, the Pro Bowl defensive end who had been sitting during national anthems for more than a month said, “revolutionary.”
The scene before kickoff of the Seahawks-Titans game was surreal. As a United States Marine Corps color guard from a Nashville-area recruiting unit presented the U.S. flag on the field, both teams stayed in their respective locker rooms during the anthem before Seattle’s 33-27 loss.
It was a first for the NFL, part of the league’s response this weekend to racial and social inequality in our country — and to President Donald Trump’s comments that NFL owners should “fire” players who do not stand for the anthem — and that any player who doesn’t stand is a “son of a b***h” for expressing their views in that way.
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin said his Seahawks consulted with Titans players up until a couple hours before kickoff to coordinate the statement the teams would make before the game. What they did came hours after the Pittsburgh Steelers became the first entire group of players in the league to not come out onto the field for an anthem, before their game at Chicago.
“It meant everything,” Bennett said. “It was us coming together beyond football and just recognizing that as human beings there is something bigger than this.
“Somebody wins and somebody loses in football, but at the end of the day it’s about coming together and collaborating and figuring out how to unite people together. And I think as a team we did that today. We showed what we have compassion and we showed what we stand for.
“We stand for equality. … It was pretty exciting to be a part of something that was revolutionary as far as the whole NFL and people coming together as one.”
Multiple Seahawks said staying inside during the anthem was preferable to some players who did not want to sit or kneel at the bench area.
“People felt more comfortable (staying in the locker room),” Bennett said, “and we didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable with anything we did and we felt that that was the best way to do it.”
The anthem singer, Meghan Linsey, and her accompanying musician took a knee at the end of the anthem.
“This is a world-changing, life-changing event. Once in a lifetime,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Sherman said there were “tons of proposals” among Seahawks teammates on what to do, and the team met “for hours” Saturday trying to finalize an action all players would accept.
“Anything we did, we had to be unified when we did it,” Sherman said.
Minutes before the game, the Seahawks released this statement: “As a team we have decided that we will not participate in the national anthem,. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed to continuing to work towards equality and justice for all.
“Respectfully, the Players of the Seattle Seahawks.”
The Seahawks said their statement was for Sunday. It remains to be seen what the team does next week before its home game against Indianapolis, and beyond.
The Titans also issued a statement Sunday before staying in their locker room during the anthem.
“The players jointly decided this was the best course of action,” the Titans said in the statement.
President Trump told a rally in Alabama that NFL owners should “fire” any player who does not stand for the anthem before games to protest social causes.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b***h off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired’?” Trump said Friday night. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it (but) they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Bennett has been sitting during the anthem for six weeks.
“My mom is a beautiful lady she has never been a b***h,” Bennett posted on his Twitter feed Saturday.
General manager John Schneider said on the Seahawks’ radio network’s pregame show from the field that these “have been an interesting 48 hours here since we landed.
“These are difficult times,” Schneider said, mentioning “trying to keep 53, really 70-some players (including practice squad and injured reserve) together, right?”
“Pete had a long meeting with some guys (Saturday) afternoon, and we had a long team meeting last night that was pretty emotional.”
Doug Baldwin said his career-high 10 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown felt different, that this game and loss wasn’t the same as so many years of others.
“I’d be remiss to say it didn’t feel different,” Baldwin said. “It’s hard to separate what we do in our daily lives from the game …
“Yes, this loss feels different. I think it was an opportunity to, again, unify.”