Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has always been an outspoken activist — in the past year alone, he has boycotted a trip to Israel, announced that he will sit during the national anthem for the entire 2017 NFL season, and championed women’s equality.
Now, he’s speaking out about his own encounter with police brutality.
On August 26, 2017, Bennett was walking back to his Las Vegas hotel after watching the fight between Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather when he heard gunshots and fled from the direction they came from, along with everyone else on the street.
That’s when, he says, “police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Bennett described the harrowing ordeal in great detail in a letter posted to Twitter on Wednesday morning. He says a police officer ordered him to the ground, put a gun near his head, and told Bennett that he would “blow [his] fucking head off” if he moved. Next, another officer allegedly approached Bennett, jammed a knee into his back making it hard to breathe, and pulled the handcuffs so tight his hands went numb.
TMZ posted a partial video of the incident on Wednesday. In the video, you can see Bennett pinned to the ground and handcuffed yelling, “I wasn’t doing nothing man! I was here with my friends! They told us to get out, everybody ran!”
In his letter on Twitter, Bennett described how his life flashed before his eyes, as he was pinned to the ground in the same position that Oscar Grant was in when he was murdered by a police officer back in 2009.
The Officers’ excessive use of force was unbearable. I felt helpless as I laid there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.’ My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of my girls. Would I ever get to play with them again? Or watch them have kids? Or be able to kiss my wife and tell her that I love her?
Bennett says that though he asked, the cops never gave him an answer to what he had done wrong, but eventually put him in the back of a police car until they confirmed his identity, and released him without explanation. Bennett has retained Oakland Civil Rights attorney John Burris, who has already called on the LVMPD to “be transparent by immediately identifying the involved officers and releasing the Officers’ body camera videos of the incident.”
Bennett, who recounted the names of other victims of police brutality, such as Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Charleena Lyles in his letter, says that this will only serve to fuel his activism going forward.
This violation that happened against my Brother Michael Bennett is disgusting and unjust. I stand with Michael and I stand with the people. pic.twitter.com/TqXFiso6lk
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 6, 2017
“I have always had a strong conviction that protesting or standing up for justice is just simply, the right thing to do,” he wrote. “This fact is unequivocally, without question, why before every game, I sit during the national anthem — because equality doesn’t live in this country and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have, or how much you give, when you are seen as a ‘Nigger,’ you will be treated that way.”
His brother, Martellus, who also plays in the NFL, re-posted Bennett’s message with a gut-wrenching note of his own, where he recalls the fear he felt when Bennett called him and told him about the assault.
— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) September 6, 2017
“The emotion and the thought of almost losing you because of the way you look left me in one of the saddest places ever. I could hear the fear in your voice, the tears in your eyes as well your sprinting heart beat. I can’t imagine how the people who lost their loved ones felt when they got the call,” Martellus wrote.
“The conversation is growing and I’m glad your voice is one of the ones being heard. You are as real as they come, well at least how they used to come. I encourage you to Continue telling your story and the stories of those that came before. I love you very much @mosesbread72 to me you’re much more than a nigger.”