RENTON Michael Bennett is waiting on the NFL.
Waiting for the league to do something about his “call to action” to formally recognize inequality of minorities and need for police reform nationwide, like it does for the cause of breast-cancer awareness.
“We haven’t gotten any reaction just yet,” Bennett said Thursday of a memo the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive end, Malcolm Jenkins and Torrey Smith of the Philadelphia Eagles and Anquan Boldin of the Buffalo Bills signed and sent to the league and commissioner Roger Goodell in August. Yahoo! Sports published the 10-page memo Wednesday night.
“Hopefully we will have another meeting in the near future. Hopefully something comes out of it.
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“But, it was just a thought of a bunch of players getting together and having some ideas about how we can move forward and be able to impact the communities around the United States and the cities that the NFL teams are in.”
Bennett said a couple of the East Coast-based players co-signing the memo have had a meeting with NFL officials about the players’ call to action on these social issues. He also said “that memo wasn’t supposed to be out. I think that’s a leak; I don’t know how it got out.”
Bennett said he doesn’t mind that it got out, though.
“No, I think it’s important that people see that players are not only being great players, are not only being fathers, are not only being teammates, but also being committed to their communities. Not just in NFL cities, but around the whole United States,” he said. “I think that just shows what type of players and what type of people we’ve got in the league.
“I know a lot of the time people look at the NFL and it’s like, ‘Oh, they’ve got women abusers.’ We’ve got some people like that. But over the top we’ve got enough good players and enough good people, genuinely, in the NFL. And I think that’s why it’s going to be a blessing to continuously to have the impact in the communities like that.”
I asked Bennett what he felt the chances were that the league establishes a social-equality awareness month to go with the breast-cancer awareness and military appreciation months the NFL recognizes so visibly in October and November, respectively.
“I don’t know what the chances are,” Bennett said, knowing the politics and public-relations considerations the league undoubtedly would have with his hot-button causes. “Hopefully the chances are 100 percent, but we’ll see.
“It takes a lot for a business or organization to get behind certain issues. We are hoping to keep pushing it to see if we can ever get to that place where we could be comfortable with talking about the issues that are going on around the country.”
Bennett said he’s “never had an issue” with Goodell, and that he and the commissioner “have always had a good conversation since I’ve known him.”
Following Thursday’s practice, Bennett met and laughed with people celebrating their Hispanic heritage.
Bennett went public last month with an incident with Las Vegas police officers that included one pointing a gun near Bennett’s head while the Seahawk was face down on pavement outside a casino. Police were responding to a call of an active shooter in the casino early on Aug. 27. After the union for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department asked the NFL to investigate and punish Bennett for false claims against its officers, Goodell issued this statement supporting Bennett:
"We've got good enough players and good enough people, genuinely, in the NFL" to affect social change, Bennett said.
Breast cancer is one cause that it is almost incomprehensible anyone would oppose it. Practically speaking, the NFL sees no PR risk in getting behind that, or nearly none in supporting the military--though the league has been criticized for a Senate investigation in 2015 that found NFL teams were charging military organizations for “paid patriotism,” the recognition they’ve gotten at games.
But Bennett has seen and heard the national backlash in the last month to him sitting on the Seahawks’ bench during the national anthem just before games for the cause of raising awareness of the way minorities are treated in this country. The league has, too. That is what makes the cause Bennett and his fellow players are asking the NFL to recognize with an official month a far trickier and PR-risky proposition for the league.
I asked Bennett if he had any feel for whether the NFL sees his as too controversial an issue to take on formally, as a league.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think I have even a sense of what they are feeling right now. I haven’t really been in contact with them. Lately, I’ve been dealing with playing in the games.
“Obviously, hopefully, we can get to that point. I think the NBA has done a great job of being able to continuously make money and play a great sport, but still be socially aware,” said the Texas native who has worn a San Antonio Spurs jersey around the locker room.
“We have to be able to find that same balance in the NFL: Be able to play great games, give the fans what they want, but also be human beings and talk about the things that effect us, on and off the court. I think that’s what’s going to make us a unique league, on top of all the great players that we have is, what kind of impact can we have in the community, on top of what we do on the field?”
Asked how he came to co-sign the memo, Bennett said: “I was one of the guys who helped come up with the ideas.”
Bennett envisions a month in which players and other NFL personnel wear gear at games that represent their social cause of choice.
“It will be like where people can wear different shirts about equality, including gender, race, different issues around the United States that we could bring awareness to, pertaining to different communities around America,” he said.
“We always have different months (commemorating different causes in the NFL), recognizing different issues in America. We feel like that was a big issue, so we wanted to find a way to recognize it and be able to have that conversation where people can find information on things that they want to get involved with. That was the idea.”