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Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday he supports Michael Bennett after the defensive end chose to sit during the national anthem before Sunday’s game in Los Angeles, but noted that he believes everyone should stand when The Star-Spangled Banner is played.

Bennett opted to remain seated Sunday, one day after Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, his former Seahawks teammate, did the same for his team’s preseason opener. Bennett also has been a vocal supporter of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remains unsigned after deciding last year not to stand for the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

“I support the heck out of (Bennett’s) concerns and his issues and all that,” Carroll said of Bennett. “When it comes to it, I love our country, and I think we should all stand when the flag is represented. His heart is in the right place — he’s going to do great work well after the time he’s with us — and it’s easy for me to support him in his issues. But I think we should all be standing up when we’re playing the national anthem.”

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In discussing players’ expressions of individuality, Carroll said that he “couldn’t support that more.” But he added the needs of the organization also had to be taken into consideration.

“We celebrate the uniqueness of our players in every way that we can, as long as they toe the line and fit in with this football team,” Carroll said. “We are not scattered in our views. We’re not disconnected. We’re a very connected group, and I think we’ve demonstrated that over the years.

“By the same token, these are young men who are trying to find their message. They’re trying to find their heart. And I couldn’t support that more. I think when we do connect with who they are, I think we can help them go farther. That’s a big challenge for me and our coaches and our administration: to work to understand our guys and to see what they can do. But they have to roll with us now.” 

Carroll said he had no prior knowledge of Bennett’s actions but that the two had extended conversations as they try to “make sense” of his decision’s fallout.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who last year revealed the Seahawks’ plan to stand with interlocked arms for the anthem, said Tuesday he had considered joining Bennett.

“We’re going to have a conversation here shortly, and again, we try to do things as a team and a family,” Baldwin said. “We’ll see how we can support Mike in this situation.”

Bennett explained in his postgame news conference that he decided on his course of action following violent clashes at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend between white supremacists and counter-protesters. 

“Seeing everything in Virginia and stuff that is going on, I just wanted to be able to use my platform to continuously speak out on injustice,” Bennett said.

Bennett said Sunday he plans to continue his protest throughout the season, though Carroll said he did not know his long-term plans.

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

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