When it comes to explaining or reacting to protests that happen during or after the playing of the national anthem, the Patriots have been supremely open. It's a topic that has risen above the culture of silence for which players are in New England are known for sticking to.
Their message has been clear: This is important, and for anyone who cares, they are more than happy to explain what their beliefs are and how they feel about the political and social climate in the country at this point in time.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty and tight end Martellus Bennett spoke about their raised-fist gesture immediately following the Star Spangled Banner on Sunday night in Arizona. Not too long after that, defensive end Chris Long touched on his thoughts on anthem protests in an interview on ESPN Radio's Russillo and Kannel show.
On Wednesday, Bennett was willing to delve into the subject matter once again, and in more detail.
"The way that pros are right now, there’s really not as much morals or about ethics, everything’s about the dollar," Bennett said. "But when you can make an impact, it might affect your wallet, but how much is it really affecting your wallet? As much money as you make, what you can do for humanity and society is a lot bigger than the dollar that you can get.
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"It shows you how big it is that some guys are willing to lose their endorsement to bring attention. All we’re trying to do is invite everybody to the conversation, because it takes everybody. It’s not just blacks, it’s not just white, it’s not just cops, it’s just not police, it takes every single person in society to do their part, and no role is too small, so it just starts with one step.
“Start the conversation. Have a conversation with our kids. Have a conversation with friends so we all can bring change, and that’s really what it’s all about. Like how can we bring change and how can we promote the conversation so that others can figure out ways to bring change? It’s what I call designed thinking. You just think in a way that you can design society to be a better place, and America was built on diversity and we believe that in diversity you can find university, just basically unity with us all.
"In an NFL locker room is the No. 1 place to prove that because we have guys from all different walks of life from different life experiences come together for one cause and one dream and one goal, and I think the same thing can happen in society. We’re all one team and we all want the same thing, which is tolerance, equality, everybody just wants to be treated fairly and justice, so it’s just bringing people together.
“Some things, people just brush under the rug, water under the bridge, but it’s big. It doesn’t affect just one family, it affects all families, you know? From the moments you’re riding in the car and there’s a Young Jeezy song and you hear the sirens in the background of the music and you panic and you freeze while you’re driving, When it gets to that point, it’s time to really start having a conversation. I mean, I like Young Jeezy, but you know?”
Bennett's father served in the Navy, and he was born on a Navy base in San Diego. He said, as he did after Sunday's game, that it has never been his aim to disrespect the flag. Still, he wants to bring attention to issues he believes are deserving.
"It’s not the anthem or the flag that I’m against," Bennett said. "When Francis Scott Key wrote [The Star Spangled Banner], everything that was going on in . . . the War of 1812 . . . I don’t know how I know that . . . But when he wrote that with everything that it symbolizes, holding up the flag and all those fighting for our freedoms during that battle, that’s huge for me and I believe in that.
"My dad served and my dad protected that flag with his life. He’s still here today and I’m grateful for that, but he did it for 10 years, so I would never disrespect the flag, but at the same time I want to bring attention to what is going on and how we can bring about change and that’s pretty much it, in a positive way. I’m not trying to be a distraction, I’m not trying to do anything else but have the conversation."
Asked if he fears people misinterpreting his post-anthem pose as something else, Bennett smiled and said he doesn't fear much.
"Everything you do people misinterpret," he said. "My wife sometimes, she says some things in text message, and I’m like, 'I didn’t even do nothing!' You know what I’m saying? Everyone has a different perspective. Everybody’s not going to see things the same way. No matter who you are when you bring change, whether it’s Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, whoever it might be, everybody goes in different ways about it and has different approaches. I think when other people are changing something, everybody’s usually afraid. No one really likes change, so when something’s foreign that they don’t know, it’s scary."
"Even for us, to go out there and do it, because we’re going to get attacked. Whatever I do or don’t say or do say, I’m going to get attacked from either side. So it’s like, what do I want and what am I going to do and that’s what it’s really about. As long as I’m straight with my perspective and my family knows what I’m doing and and where I’m going, I’m OK. I don’t really care about the outside world."
Bennett added: "I love America. I don’t want to go anywhere else, but there’s still some [expletive] going on around the world. So for us to just bring and let people know, like hey, in the community that we grew up in, our friends, our family, those that I know and those that don’t look like us, for everybody to have equal rights and equal opportunity and to be fair and just, that’s really what it’s about. It’s not about anything more than that. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, green or you’re a wizard, whatever it might be, everyone should be treated fairly. And that’s all that we’re really doing is just saying hey, 'This is our unity. We see what’s going on and we’re not blind to it and we want to do what we can to help out.' "