Moving Forward With Michael Bennett

There aren’t many times in life that, as a fan, you get to witness a truly defining moment in a player’s career. These are rare moments that are game changing and remembered in the lore of sports history forever. These moments unite people on the team, the local community, and other athletes in that sport.

Normally we think of these moments as game-winning home runs or defensive stops in extremely important games at the most crucial times. We go home reveling around these fantastic occurrences and plan how to tell the stories of these moments to our kids. Most Seattle Seahawks fans know how they’ll tell their kids about Richard Sherman’s 2014 NFC Championship game-winning football tip, or how Seattle Mariners fans will be telling their grandkids about how Ken Griffey, Jr. single-handedly built Safeco Field from a near decade of baseball dominance, saving the Seattle Mariners from leaving for good.

Today, Seahawks fans have a leader that’s undergoing a career changing experience outside the realm of any kind of statistic or measurable phenomena. The last couple of months in Michael Bennett’s life have been anything but ethereal. It’s commonly known by now that he’s joined the other players around the league by kneeling during the national anthem before Seahawks football games. The Seahawks as a team last year had locked arms before the first game at the start of the season.

Bennett started to kneel this year in response to the violent events that’d occurred in Charlottesville, Va. during a protest about a month ago and has quickly become a leader in front of this movement, rejecting archaic and divisive ideas. In July, he announced a book he’s co-authoring titled, “How to Make White People Uncomfortable.” This book’s goal is to speak out against racism, the friction experienced in the NFL, and the sexist remarks of some of our nation’s leaders. The topics in this book are meant to dive into the core of how we as citizens think and act about race in the civic and professional arena. This engagement usually causes discomfort because people are forced to face harrowing dilemmas that are largely left in the underbrush of society.

Not to mention that at the timing of his book announcement, Bennett had recently been involved in a police encounter with Las Vegas metro on the night of the Mayweather-McGregor fight on Aug. 26. From what’s noticeable on the video released by TMZ and the Vegas police department, Bennett was detained on the street by police officers who didn’t have their body cameras activated. We know that police sought him out, and we so far know that he didn’t have a firearm. While the incident is under investigation, we can safely assume that the police department detained the wrong, and black, individual.

Bennett responded with a heartfelt letter via Twitter in which he reminded the world that he’s a hard worker, a family man, and a person dedicated to the hearts and minds of the black community. He explained that the system that’s supposed to serve had failed, while retracing the accounts of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Charleena Lyles.

The letter received considerable attention on Twitter and planted the Seahawks defenseman at the forefront of a disappointingly controversial national dialogue. While the Las Vegas police exclaims that the football player’s account of the incident are incorrect, Bennett’s party blames Vegas police of slander. A situation enthralled in emotion, he has been able to garner a strong backing of athletes and activists of the national community, most notably from the northwest: Sue Bird, Macklemore, Megan Rapinoe, and Breanna Stewart. These individuals backed Bennett on a statement of solidarity posted by Dave Zirin on The Nation’s website on Sept. 13.

Recently on the NFL field, he’s gained support from Justin Britt, Thomas Rawls, and Cliff Avril. His brother Martellus who plays for the Packers, raised a fist in support of his brother before the first game of the NFL season as well. Around the league, former Seahawks teammate Marshawn Lynch sat during the national anthem before the Raiders’ first game. Marcus Peters, a former UW Husky defensive back, had also seated himself during the national anthem. Other players have shown support for Bennett, racial solidarity, and the right to free speech by sitting the national anthem.

The support he’s gained shows the immense amount of influence his actions have in the community. What’s important to remember as fans is that one of our players, that we enjoy watching, is hurting. We may be feeling uncomfortable when athletes are deciding to sit the anthem, but we should note the courage it takes for standing up for oneself. The northwest, especially Seattle, should feel proud about their player’s work and message.

Bennett will be out there this upcoming Sunday defending the Seahawks home turf against the 49ers, putting his body at risk for the game he loves. We as fans should cheer for the win but we need to start caring about the racial divide in our community and recognizing the story and message Bennett is conveying. The Seahawks community should keep his message fresh so that his work isn’t left in the brush. This is a truly defining moment in Bennett’s career and is clearly affecting the Pacific Northwest sports community and the NFL. Us fans are obliged to remember this moment moving forward.

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About Sebastian Pycior 54 Articles
Sebastian is an industrial professional, having graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Political Science in 2013. He remains largely interested in the effects sports have on greater society. From Las Vegas, he’s moved on from the world of 'odds' and has embraced storylines and aspects surrounding Seattle sports.