RENTON Michael Bennett tells me he didn’t get an explanation before or after, and hasn’t since, following Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers forcing him to the ground with a gun near his head and an officer’s knee in his back, as the Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end described it.
Bennett told me the reason he was eventually released from the rough apprehension and what he described as a “tragic situation” early on Aug. 27 a couple hours after the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor championship fight for which he was in town was that one officer on the scene recognized the football star. Another officer then looked up Bennett on the internet through a mobile device to confirm his identity and then let him go, Bennett said.
Bennett called teammate Cliff Avril, who was in Las Vegas with him for Mayweather-McGregor on Aug. 26. Avril at first thought Bennett was joking, because the great friends and fellow Pro Bowl ends often mess around, but then when Avril heard the emotion in Bennett’s voice and soon saw the distress in his friend’s face he knew it was no joke.
Avril said before practice on Wednesday for Sunday’s opener at Green Bay he’s never seen Bennett so shaken as he was that night. Avril also talked in the present tense, saying he hopes his friend has happy days and that Bennett brings up the incident in Las Vegas from time to time.
“I’ve never seen him in that state of mind, how frantic, how scary of a situation that is,” Avril said.
If you don’t want real life with your football, don’t follow the Seahawks. Bennett bringing his accusations to light Wednesday is the latest example of this team confronting issues in our society unflinchingly and head-on.
“It’s a traumatic experience for me, and my family,” Bennett said. “It sucks that the country that we live in now, sometimes you get profiled for the color of your skin. It’s a tough situation for me.
“Do I think every police officer is bad? No, I don’t believe that. But do I believe there are people out there who judge people by the color of their skin? I do believe that.
“I’m just focused on trying to push forward and keep continuously championing the quest for just for people, keep pushing for equality for oppressed people. That’s just what I am about, and what I am going to keep doing.”
Bennett said the incident he had in Las Vegas is why he’s been sitting during national anthems before Seahawks games for the last month, his protest for mistreatment of minorities in our country.
“People ask why I sit down,” Bennett said. “This is why.”
He thanked his wife Pele for her support.
“Without her I wouldn’t have the strength to be up here right now,” he said.
Martellus Bennett, his brother, is a tight end for the Packers. Jason Wilde of ESPN.com and ESPN Wisconsin told me Wednesday night that Martellus Bennett was in tears in the Packers’ locker room earlier in the day discussing his brother.
"I think the biggest thing for me, just looking at the world right now, I just think there’s a lack of empathy,” Martellus Bennett said, according to Wilde. “It’s easy to give sympathy but it’s a lot harder for someone to empathize with people of different genres of life or different ethnicities. People just lack empathy to a lot of things that are going, not just with my brother but after what he said what’s going on, what happened to him, there’s a lack of empathy there, or anyone else with their purpose in life, whatever it may be, I just think these days we lack empathy.”
TMZ obtained video of part of Michael Bennett’s detainment in Las Vegas early on Aug. 27. Warning, it contains graphic language:
“The whole time, through the whole situation, all I could think about was my wife and kids,” an obviously sullen Bennett said. “I think people sometimes, you think the game is the most important thing. But for me the whole time I wasn’t thinking about the Super Bowl. I wasn’t thinking about what plays we are going against Green Bay. I wasn’t thinking about sacking Aaron Rodgers. I was just literally thinking about my wife and children, and how much I ... how much they mean to me.”
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department held a press conference in that city Wednesday afternoon to discuss Bennett’s situation.
LVMPD Undersheriff Kevin C. McMahill, a 25-year police veteran and second in command of the department, said: “I can tell you as I stand here today I see no evidence of that, that race played any role in this incident.”
He said two officers who were involved Bennett were “of Hispanic origin.”
McMahill said his officers were responding to reports of an active shooter in the Cromwell Casino off Flamingo Boulevard in Las Vegas at around 1 a.m. on Aug. 27. As LVMPD officers entered a nightclub area of the casino with guns drawn, McMahill said officers saw a man they later identified as Bennett “crouched by a gaming machine” -- and then running from the club. McMahill said Bennett then jumped a wall before an officer apprehended him on the street.
"Due to Bennett's actions and the information the officers had at the time, they believed Bennett may have been involved in the shooting, and they gave chase," McMahill said.
McMahill said Bennett told officers “he had no problem with what the officers did, just the one that he claimed the officer pointed a gun at his head.
McMahill said he didn’t learn of an incident involving Bennett with his department until Wednesday morning. McMahill said it was important to note that “it was later found that there were no shots fired in the casino and that the call was unfounded.”
He said the LVMPD officer that chased down Bennett and apprehended him did not have his body camera activated at the time.
McMahill showed during the press conference a lengthy video from a trailing officer of the scene. It doesn’t conclusively show much more than a passing view of a man face down on a sidewalk outside the casino at the end. It doesn’t show Bennett crouching by the gaming machine or running -- the reason McMahill officers chased Bennett.
The undersheriff added LVMPD has 126 videos to review. Multiple times during his approximately 25-minute press conference McMahill called on citizens at the scene of the night in question to provide mobile-phone video to help show more clearly what happened.
The department also issued this earlier Wednesday.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he heard what happened with Bennett in Las Vegas the morning after the incident. He didn’t wait for the Las Vegas police to comment before he chose a side.
Wednesday, the coach uncharacteristically read from a prepared statement about Bennett’s situation.
“Michael Bennett unfortunately experiences a horrendous incident on Aug. 27th. We are thankful that he is safe, and we take this opportunity to say that we stand in support of him and anyone facing inequalities. What happened with Michael is a classic illustration and reality of inequalities demonstrated daily.
“May this incident inspire all of us to respond with compassion when inequalities are brought to light, and allow us to have the courage to stand for change.
“We can do better. We can do better than this.”
Bennett posted an open letter that begins “Dear World” posted on his social-media account Wednesday morning.
Bennett wrote that after the Las Vegas title fight, he and “hundreds” of others around him heard what sounded like gunshots while he was going back to his hotel.
“Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Bennett wrote.
He said a police officer ordered him to the ground, and he complied. Then, Bennett wrote, the officer “placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I move he would ‘blow my (expletive) head off.’ Bennett described a second officer forcefully jamming his knee into Bennett’s back “making it difficult for me to breathe.” He said the handcuffs officers applied to him were so tight his fingers went numb, before he was taken to the back of a police car “where I sat for what felt like an eternity” despite Bennett telling officers he had rights the officers were “duty bound to respect.”
“I felt helpless as I laid there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed,” Bennett wrote. “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.’”
Wednesday, before practice, Bennett said: “Like I said, this is a tragic situation for me. I hate being up here at this moment. Like I said, there’s a lot people who have experienced what I experienced at that moment and they are no here to tell their story. I think about Trayvon Martin. I think about Charleena Lyles. I think about Philando Castile. I think about Tamir Rice. So many people that had the experience that I had, and they are not here to tell their story.
“So...that’s what it is.”
Bennett abruptly -- poignantly -- ended his press conference as he was answering a question about what he’s told his three daughters in the aftermath of his incident.
And now there’s a football game to play in four days.
Martellus Bennett said he can’t wait to give his brother a hug this weekend in Wisconsin.
“It gets emotional when you think about it, like overall...But yeah. Sometimes, a hug is the best thing you can give, and,” Martellus Bennett said, with tears forming in his eyes in the Green Bay locker room. “I mean...I don’t really know, really...
“I don’t really have the answers, so...You just think, ‘What if?’ You know?...Two seconds this way, two seconds that way, the whole thing is different, so...So for me, I’ll just be happy to see my brother. (Tears falling off his cheeks) Because there’s a chance I couldn’t see him.”