SANTA CLARA, Calif. Michael Bennett got a seat. He got a sack. Then he got a coin.
He’s most proud of the coin.
The Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive end again sat during the national anthem Sunday before Seattle’s win here over San Francisco. That was after he stood during the anthmes before the previous two games when Seattle and Arizona hosted "Salute to Service" nights.
Eight of Bennett’s teammates joined him in sitting Sunday. Left tackle Duane Brown and defensive end Branden Jackson each took a knee beside them in front of the bench on the Seahawks’ sideline.
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"The last couple weeks we wanted to honor the military, so that was really good," Bennett said.
Then the son of a Navy man pulled out of his shaving kit at his locker a unit coin from the U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He said, beaming, he got that on the field at Levi’s Stadium following Sunday’s game, from a veteran of the Vietnam War.
The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was one of the first American military units on the ground in Vietnam, first in 1961 as an advisory force sent by President John F. Kennedy. For more than a decade, it was a backbone force for the U.S. in the protracted conflict. It was among the last American military units to leave southeast Asia following the end of the Vietnam War in the mid-1970s.
"He lost half his battalion. He was telling me about the POWs and the people missing in action,” Bennett said of man who gave the coin to him Sunday. “He gave that to me. Says he loves everything I stand for.”
Bennett has during this season gotten attention and national criticism for sitting during anthems to bring awareness to the mistreatment of minorities and need for police reform in the United States. He’s gotten less attention for acts such as standing for “Salute to Service” nights to honor veterans and military personnel, or stopping outside Seahawks headquarters in Renton before a practice to talk to veterans who were protesting outside the team’s facility as he was driving past.
Next week during the Seahawks’ Sunday night primetime game against Philadelphia, Bennett is planning to wear cleats representing the National League of Families POW/MIA during the NFL’s annual “My Cleats, My Cause” week. He said a few weeks ago he was inspired to do so after watching a Public Brodcasting System documentary on the Vietnam War.
"That's just an honor to be able to get something like that. That's a big deal,” Bennett said of the coin he got Sunday.
That wasn’t all he appreciated after the game.
Seahawks team owner Paul Allen was just inside the door to the locker room, congratulating and shaking hands with each player, coach and staff member for the win. Bennett was one of the last ones in, after receiving his unit coin and talking on the field. As Allen shook Bennett’s hand, the defensive end leaned forward at the waist into Allen with a respectful bow.