Bennett, a Seattle Seahawks defense end, chose to sit on the bench before his team's 48-17 win against the Los Angeles Chargers. He explained his reasoning after the contest.
"With everything that's been going on the last couple of months, and especially after the last couple of days seeing what's going on in Virginia, and earlier today in Seattle," Bennett told reporters, according to the team website. "I just wanted to be able to use my platform to be able to continuously speak on injustice."
"First of all, I want to make sure people understand, I love the military," Bennett said. "My father was in the military. I love hotdogs like any other American, I love football like any other American, but I don't love segregation, I don't love riots, I don't love oppression, I don't love gender slandering. I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve. I want to be able to use this platform to continuously push the message of that...keep journeying out and keep finding out how unselfish can we be as a society. How can we continuously love one another and understand that people are different? And just because they're different doesn't mean you shouldn't like them. Just because they don't smell the way you smell, just because they don't eat what you eat, just because they don't pray to the same God you pray to, that doesn't mean you should hate them. Whether it's Muslim, whether it's Buddhist, whether it's Christianity, whatever it is, I just want people to understand that no matter what, we're in this thing together. It's more about being a human being at this point."
Bennett, a nine-year NFL veteran, said he doesn't want to be a "distraction" for his teammates. The two-time Pro Bowler joined the Seahawks in 2013.
"Of course I'm going to face backlash," Bennett told reporters. "This is bigger than me, this is bigger than football. This is about people, this is about bringing opportunities to people, giving people equality. This is bigger than a sport. At the end of the day, you can't take your accolades with you, but what you can do is leave a legacy that you can give kids to seize to be able to inspire. I don't look at myself as a role model, I look at myself as trying to inspire young children and young people of different genders, whatever they are, to want to change their environment and continuously push whatever they think is right."
Lynch, now a member of the Oakland Raiders, was Bennett's teammate for three seasons, including a Super Bowl victory in 2014. He was also seated, on a cooler, before a 20-10 preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Raiders coach Jack Del Rio spoke to the running back after the game.
"He said, 'This is something I've done for 11 years. It's not a form of anything other than me being myself,'" Del Rio told reporters after the game.
"Just so you [Lynch] understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem, but I'm going to respect you as a man. You do your thing," Del Rio said he told Lynch.
Last year Del Rio said individuals should save those "decisions to express yourself for an individual forum."
"The best way to look at it is that, in America, we as individuals all have freedoms. That's one of the things that makes our country great," Del Rio told reporters, according to CSN Bay Area. "We may not always like or appreciate that someone is expressing themselves. For us, it's more about recognizing that you're part of an organization and you're representing it."
"Our organization believes that you should pay respect to the flag. Save those individual decisions to express yourself for an individual forum. That's how we feel, in talking with Mark Davis about how our team and organization feels about it. That's in line with my thinking as well."