Michael Bennett has never had an issue with saying what's on his mind. And just because he's about to become a member of the Patriots doesn't mean that's going to change.
The 33-year-old defensive end spoke at Princeton University for a Sports, Race and Society lecture on Monday, addressing what he plans to do during the playing of the anthem before games next season, and saying that he plans to discuss Donald Trump's presidency with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
According to William C. Rhoden, writing for ESPN, Bennett indicated that he was looking forward to having conversations with the coach and quarterback about Trump.
"I think it's important not to to run away from those conversations," Bennett said, per ESPN, "or not hear their ideas about why they think the way they do."
He added, "I think it's an opportunity for growth to have those conversations. If we don't allow ourselves to have those conversations, we're stunting our growth."
In 2016, during Trump's presidential campaign, Belichick sent Trump a letter that Trump read to a crowd in Manchester, New Hampshire. The year prior, a "Make America Great Again" hat was spotted in Brady's locker, which Brady explained to WEEI was a gift from Trump via Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
The Patriots quarterback criticized Trump in September of 2017, though, when Trump said, "Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!' "
“Yeah, I certainly disagree with what he said," Brady told WEEI at the time. "I thought it was just divisive. Like I said, I just want to support my teammates."
Bennett said during his Princeton appearance that he's spoken with the Patriots about his plans to stay in the locker room during the anthem moving forward.
"I explained to them is that my integrity mean everything," Bennett said, per ESPN. "I think they respect that about me, they respect who I am as an individual."
A number of players across the league, specifically those involved with the Players Coalition, have been open about the fact that they would like to steer attention away from anthem protests and toward making meaningful change for communities that need it.
"If you listen to what players are saying all along, you know, taking a knee was a protest to get people to understand what we were trying to do," McCourty said last summer prior to moderating a panel in Dorchester focused on criminal justice reform. "This is what we were trying to do. We're trying to make changes to the community . . . That has been our focus all along."
The Patriots have a deal in place with the Eagles to acquire Bennett in a trade that will be made official at the start of the new league year on Wednesday. New England will send Philadelphia a 2020 fifth-round pick in exchange for Bennett and a seventh.
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