Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett came to the podium Wednesday wearing a shirt and hat that both read "Know Your Rights," gear supporting Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp, a free campaign funded by Kaepernick to “raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment and instructions to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios.”
In other words, Bennett, one of the team's most outspoken players on a number of topics that are far bigger than football, and a man who is currently writing a book called "Things That Make White People Uncomfortable," was more than happy to discuss something other than that day's minicamp practice.
Bennett, who has formed a close relationship with Kaepernick, is surprised that the former San Francisco 49ers starter, who had a free-agent visit with Seattle earlier this offseason, is still a free agent.
"There is no logical explanation," Bennett said. "Obviously, there's the elephant in the room why Kaepernick isn't signed and most people know why. I've said this several times and I'm not afraid to say it—I think race and politics in sports is something people don't want to hear about, nor do people want to be a part of. I think if you bring the issue of oppressed people onto a stage where there's millions of fans watching, bring up dirty little secrets, I think a lot of people don't want to hear that. People just want to see people score touchdowns and make big hits. They don't want to hear about people getting killed by police or gentrification or women's rights issues. Nobody wants to hear about that. Standing Rock—nobody wants to hear about that. People just want to hear about athletes and sports. But in this generation, athletes are supposed to use our platform to make change. What are we supposed to do when we are part of America? Are we supposed to just stay in our homes and not speak up on issues? No, I think it's different. I think we're supposed to go back and continuously bring up the issues and continuously inspire the youth that look up to us. That's our job as athletes and that's our job as human being. I think a human rights issue is everybody's problem. Every issue we're dealing with, race is everybody's issue, women's rights is everybody's problem. So until everybody feels like it's a problem, then it's going to continuously be a problem."
While Bennett is bothered by the fact that Kaepernick remains unemployed, he was happy to see the Seahawks at least bring Kaepernick in for a visit, something other teams have not done.
"I don't know what factors into the Seahawks not signing him," he said. "I know the Seahawks were the only team that stepped up and gave him the opportunity to [visit]. So that says a lot about the organization. I think our organization is built around community. If you look at the way that the Seahawks move, if you look at the way that our team moves, if you look at the people that work in the building and this organization is built around community. So I'm not surprised that the Seahawks were the one to look at Kaepernick or gave him the opportunity to even try out."
Like Richard Sherman, who talked to the media before him Wednesday, Bennett downplayed the notion of any locker-room problems being an issue for the Seahawks.
"I think everything's overblown in sports," Bennett said. "I think you want to build stories. Stories are needed. This is a drought in the media right now. This is a drought. The NFL does everything for the media when it comes to sports. Every other sport is not really even paid attention to. Nobody knows who even won the NHL championship, but when the Super Bowl is on, everybody is paying attention. It's the biggest event. So people want a story in sports. People want to be a part of a story, build up a controversy and so now we have a story, so thank you, we have something to build upon. You already started our narrative. That's good for us. We already know where our story starts and we have to define the ending of our story."
Finally, on his decision to stay home in Hawaii during voluntary workouts earlier this month, Bennett said, "I like to be a parent. I've got daughters, I'm a coach, I'm a teacher at the school, I do stuff in the community. I try to balance my football life with my actual reality. To find that great balance as a human being—I feel like it's important for athletes to find that. A lot of times athletes have a problem and they retire because they build their identity around the sport, so when the sport is gone, you are lost. So along the way, you've got to transition yourself to be able to live in civilization, to find different things you can be a part of, find out who you are. So that's why I do what I do. I train harder than anybody in the NFL, so I'm not worried about being in shape or being the best player I can be. What I am worried about is how good of a parent I can be and how much better of a husband I can be, so those are the things I'm focusing on in the offseason."
Check out photos from Day 2 of the Seahawks' mandatory minicamp at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.