Michael Bennett says and does a lot that is out of the ordinary.
What the Seahawks’ defensive end did before practice Wednesday was refreshing.
Bennett appeared for a media session in front of cameras and reporters in the hallway of team headquarters Wednesday -- the day after he was selected for the first Pro Bowl in his seventh NFL season -- wearing a cap with a matching button pinned on it stating: “Bernie 2016.”
Bennett’s all in for Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2016 election cycle.
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“I’m voting for Bernie Sanders for president next year,” Bennett said. “I just like a lot of the things that he talks about: social injustice, climate control, just a lot of different things that he says. I just think he’s an honest guy. He’s one of the main people that I really think has the platform to tell the truth to the people. And I think that’s what people need to hear, the honest truth -- not so much hate like Donald Trump and people like that. Not so much about war but more about improving people and improving the economy and just livin’ good.”
We can debate Bennett’s political views and Sanders’ candidacy -- but not here. The point isn’t that Bennett is backing Sanders but that he is taking a public political stand at all.
The modern professional athlete typically stays way clear of any potentially controversial social or political stance. Not because he is afraid fans won’t agree with what he’s saying. Because he’s afraid current and potential endorsers won’t. Pro players don’t want to risk their own money they stand to gain through endorsements by saying anything that’s not down the middle politically and socially.
It always was and still is the biggest criticism of Michael Jordan. The best basketball player ever had the worldwide platform to move social mountains, yet never really did -- while Nike, Hanes, Gatorade and many other companies paid him millions to push their product free of controversy.
“Obviously, if you say something you are going to be judged by people at the click of a button with Twitter and Instagram and Facebook,” Bennett said. “But for me, that doesn’t really matter. It’s just my opinion. It’s who I like and that’s what I like.
“Some people like red. Some people like blue. I just happen to like Bernie Sanders.”
Contrast Bennett with Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback has acknowledged he’s friends with Trump, the controversial real-estate tycoon who is running for the Republican nomination for president. But Brady went out of his way this season in the direction opposite of Bennett, saying in September on Boston radio station WEEI “whatever I vote is going to be my own personal choice based on how I feel. I don’t even know what the issues are. I haven’t paid attention to politics in a long time. It’s actually not something that I really even enjoy. It’s way off my radar.”
Bennett said politics is very much of the Seahawks’ radar. He says the players often talk it inside the locker room.
“Politics is always a discussion in the locker room, especially among my peers,” the 30-year-old Bennett said. “(Brandon) Mebane, Cliff Avril -- and of course Richard Sherman. We always talk about politics. I think that has a lot to do with what goes on around the world, and a lot of people we know are affected by things that go on. So we like to talk about it and like to be a part of it.”
Do the teammates usually agree?
“No, we never see eye to eye,” Bennett said. “Politics, religion and money are three things you never talk about at dinner.”
So does Bennett, who lives in Hawaii in the offseason, have a run for political office in his post-playing future?
“No,” the father of three said. “I don’t have time for politics. I’ve got too many daughters.”