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Michael Bennett greets veterans outside VMAC, and an actual dialogue ensues

RENTON, Wash. — A scene spotted near the Seahawks training facility might be doing the unthinkable:

Bringing together people on both sides of the protests during the national anthem.

Renton resident Danya Mink Coats lives near the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, the practice facility for the Seahawks. Coats said she was driving by the practice facility Tuesday when she noticed people standing alongside the road.

She thought it was a car wreck. Instead, it was military veterans standing on the road. They appeared to be protesting the Seahawks decision to protest before the national anthem.

“Mostly all seniors who had probably seen the battlefield firsthand,” Coats wrote. “They were proudly wearing their veteran’s hats, jackets and some carried American flags.”

Standing with the veterans was Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.

Bennett has been at the center of the debate over the protests, as many have criticized him for sitting during the national anthem.

Coats said she grabbed a picture of Bennett. Then, the gravity of the scene hit her.

She started to cry.

"Suddenly, that image brought an unexpected wave of extreme emotion over me and I instantly and almost uncontrollably started bawling," she said.

Coats had to pull over. She said a few veterans came over and asked if she was OK. So too did Bennett.

Coats told Bennett how she felt about the protests during the national anthem.

"I simply said, 'Michael, I am so torn and I don't know what to do. I don't want to disrespect our country, our flag or my husband who's in the military, but I want to understand. I'm a big Seahawks fan and I don't know what to do.'"

She and Bennett spoke for nearly a half hour. She said he spoke kindly, and listened to her concerns.

"He talked about a lot of things I knew were coming from his heart, too," Coats said. "The word unity was used several times, and he admitted he didn't know where to go from here."

Coats said she didn't know where to go from here. Neither does Bennett, she said.

And maybe that's OK, she suggests.

"Nor do I know what the correct answers are... but I do know, I am thankful for those veterans and thankful Michael stopped to talk with them... and inadvertently me," Coats said.

Though many internet comments about the protests have been toxic, some in Coats' post seem to see perspective on both sides.

"Thank you for sharing your story," one commenter said. "There's always two sides to every story and you demonstrated that beautifully."