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‘It’s not a disrespect:’ Seahawks’ Baldwin, Bennett and civil rights leader defend NFL protests

SEATTLE — Even on an off-day for players, NFL protests continue to take center stage.

Two Seahawks players went on CNN Wednesday night to explain why on Sunday night the team and head coach remained in the locker room during the national anthem.  The move was met by both praise and criticism from fans.

“The players are using the bully pulpit that they have,” said Northwest African American Museum Interim Executive Director Mildred Ollee.

We’ve all watched the NFL protests during the national anthem. Players say the original message had nothing to do with veterans or the anthem at all.

“When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way that it was supposed to, I’ll stand,” said former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.

Kaepernick was the first player to sit during the anthem.  For the past two years, other players, including Seahawks players Michael Bennett and Doug Baldwin started protesting as well.

“It’s not a disrespect. We’re honoring those who have sacrificed their lives in order for us to use our First Amendment rights,” said Baldwin.

“When I get pulled over by the police, I shouldn’t feel like I’m going to die. I should feel like I’m interacting with law enforcement and that they will respect me as a human being,” said Bennett.

"I would like to challenge every American that is watching this show to treat people better," Bennett said. "That really is what it's about. It's about treating people like human beings. That's the first step."

"The changes start with the heart," he continued. "This is not a violent protest. This is a peaceful protest. We are challenging people spiritually, not physically, spiritually to change the way you have been doing. Change the culture."

Kaepernick’s protest started after police officers killed black people like Michael Gardner, Tamir Rice and others.

“I’m thinking we’re still in the struggle.  We’re still making progress and we’re still having to make severe sacrifices to call attention to what’s going" on, said Ollee.

Ollee and her family have dedicated their lives to civil rights.  She says today’s protests and the criticism mirrors what happened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I remember Martin Luther King being called a communist. People were against him. Felt like if you just sit and wait, that time would take care of all this -- and we know that that does not happen,” said Ollee.

Ollee says what the players are doing is exactly what it takes to point out injustices, start a conversation, and find solutions.

Baldwin said, “Number one, we want more resources for our law enforcement so they can experience better de-escalation tactics, better policies, better protocols. Number two … let’s put the D.A.R.E. program back in school. Let’s start funding education programs. Let’s start putting more resources in our public schools in general. You want to know what’s the next steps, well that’s what we’re asking for and we’ve been saying that since day one."

On Wednesday, Bennett, suggested protests would continue until real change comes about.

"There is no way a woman should feel less human than man," he said. "There is no way that black person should feel less human than a white man. Everybody should be seen as equal. Until that happens ... there is never going to be a change."