Michael Bennett, a Protest Pioneer, Retires From the N.F.L.

Written by on July 21, 2020

Michael Bennett, the standout defensive finish who spoke out forcefully in opposition to racial injustice throughout his profession, stated he was retiring after an 11-year N.F.L. profession, primarily with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks.

“Retiring feels a bit of like loss of life of self, however I’m trying ahead to the rebirth — the chance to reimagine my function,” Bennett, 34, wrote on Instagram. “I’ve by no means been extra at peace in my life.”

Bennett, like his youthful brother, Martellus, a tight end who final performed within the N.F.L. within the 2017 season, by no means shied away from sharing his opinions. In 2017, after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Bennett was a part of a bunch of gamers who began protesting during the playing of the national anthem to boost consciousness of police brutality and different types of injustice. However whereas most gamers knelt or raised a fist throughout the anthem, Bennett drew further consideration as a result of he selected to take a seat on the bench.

He was later joined by a white teammate, offensive lineman Justin Britt, who put his hand on Bennett’s shoulder in solidarity.

Doug Baldwin, a Seahawks large receiver who retired after the 2018 season, stated Bennett was by no means afraid to share his opinions, typically backed by knowledge, out and in of the locker room. However he was additionally prepared to hearken to others who didn’t agree with him. On the similar time, he adopted unconventional paths, as when he chose to sit during the national anthem.

“Clearly, he cared deeply about the identical points as we did, however he had his personal means preventing and talking out,” Baldwin stated. “He was by no means afraid to specific himself. Whether or not it was attempting to deliver individuals collectively or being divisive, his intention was to get individuals to look outdoors themselves.”

Bennett’s protests had been knowledgeable by his private expertise. In August 2017, Bennett was outdoors a Las Vegas nightclub when the police had been investigating a report of pictures fired. Two officers approached Bennett and ultimately handcuffed him at gunpoint. Bennett later said that the officers had racially profiled him and used extreme drive, together with an officer kneeling on his again. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Division denied that its drive was unwarranted.

In 2018, Bennett was indicted on a felony cost, accused of assaulting an aged safety guard when he rushed the sphere after the 2017 Tremendous Bowl, which Martellus gained as a member of the New England Patriots. The cost was dismissed in 2019 due to a scarcity of proof.

He shared his views about racial inequality, police violence and athletes’ roles in protest actions in “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable,” a guide he co-wrote that was launched in 2018.

In school, he stated he was astonished at how white coaches tried to mould Black gamers of their picture.

Bennett stated about his expertise at Texas A&M: “We had white coaches, they usually needed the Black gamers to be the embodiment of who they had been. They’d inform us to put on our pants and sneakers a sure means; that is what it meant to ‘be a person.’”

He known as out the N.F.L. for successfully banning Colin Kaepernick, the previous San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started kneeling throughout the nationwide anthem in 2016 however who has gone unsigned since turning into a free agent after that season.

“The N.F.L. holds up as leaders gamers who’ve been accused of rape, violence in opposition to ladies, and even manslaughter,” Bennett wrote. “They’re proper in entrance of us, taking part in quarterback and profitable Tremendous Bowl M.V.P. awards. I’d a lot relatively name a frontrunner somebody who helps his group.”

Bennett was signed by the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He was waived early that season and picked up by the Buccaneers, who moved him to defensive deal with.

After 4 seasons at Tampa Bay, the Seahawks signed him once more, this time to a one-year contract in 2013. He joined what was already the league’s most dominant protection, serving to the Seahawks win their only Super Bowl championship that season largely due to a powerful cross rush and defensive backfield.

Bennett was chosen to play within the Professional Bowl thrice in his profession. In 2018, he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, the place he performed one season.

In 2019, he performed with the Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. Final October, the Patriots suspended him for one week, citing conduct detrimental to the staff; Bennett stated it was after a philosophical disagreement together with his place coach.

Within the button-down, just-do-your-job world of the N.F.L., Bennett by no means appeared to shrink back from asking questions and philosophical disagreements.

“However for those who don’t ask why, nothing, not a rattling factor, is ever going to alter,” he wrote.

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