Justin Britt backs Michael Bennett in anthem protest

Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt placed his hand on Michael Bennett's shoulder in a display of support of the defensive end's decision to sit during the national anthem prior to the start of Friday's preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Britt stood next to the sitting Bennett, who told reporters earlier this week he plans to sit during the national anthem all season in protest of social injustice. Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane also showed his support of Bennett by standing a few feet away and facing him during the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner. 

"I thought it was a special moment and an emotional moment, for me, it was a very touching moment," Bennett said about Britt's show of support. "And I'm very thankful to have someone in my corner like that and I'm appreciative of him."

Britt told NFL Network's Omar Ruiz he talked with Bennett before the game about supporting his cause. Britt said he would "encourage" his teammates to join him and Bennett in trying to understand the issues and not just "pick sides" in the debate.

"I want to support him, I want to support what he's standing for and his beliefs," Britt said after the game. "I'm not foolish, I'm from Missouri, I get things are different in that area than it is in some other areas. I'm not against what the flag means and veterans. You know my dad was in the Army. So I'm not putting any disrespect to them.

"I'm just trying to understand the issues, trying to educate myself more in that regard and showing support and I'm going to continue to understand what is going on in the world and why it's happening. None of it's right, none of it is what should be happening so I'm going to continue talking to Mike and exploring and just helping myself understand things so I wanted to take a first step tonight and that's what I felt like I did."

Britt's display of solidarity with Bennett comes a day after Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long showed his support for teammate Malcolm Jenkins' protest during the anthem.

In an interview with ESPN this week, Bennett said he believed white players becoming involved would help bring more awareness to the protests.

"It would take a white player to really get things changed," Bennett said Wednesday, "because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it ... it would change the whole conversation. Because when you bring somebody who doesn't have to be a part of [the] conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump."

Bennett also sat prior to last week's game against the Los Angeles Chargers. He said his decision to sit came after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that included the death of a woman who was struck by a car deliberately driven into a group of counter-protesters.

"To be able to share moments where we agree that things that happened in Charlottesville, the things that are going on right now are not acceptable," Bennett said when asked Friday night if he believed having a white player support him will raise more awareness to the protest. "To be able to have him do that ... I think it'll give a lot of other players courage to move forward and keep trying to share that message of love and that message of unity."

In last year's regular-season opener, Seahawks players and coaches locked arms in a display of solidarity during the singing of the national anthem. The display came weeks after Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem prior to a San Francisco 49ers preseason game to protest the treatment of minorities in the United States.

"We support love. We support trying to make a difference, and we've been a team that's always done that," Russell Wilson told Ruiz when asked about Britt showing support for Bennett. "And I think that for us, we care about people, we care about the opportunity we have before us.

"Love, you know, that's the only way. It's to care for one another, no matter if you are black, white; no matter what you are, Asian, Mexican, it doesn't matter. Ultimately, we want to live in a world where people have a chance to live healthy lives."