“I honestly believe that it would take a white player to really get things changed.”
Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett has never shied away from using his platform as a pro athlete to speak his mind on social issues. His Instagram account is far heavier on socially responsibility than on-field activity, and with the Charlottesville tragedies fresh in his mind, he’s making his feelings on that matter known as well.
Prior to Sunday’s preseason game against the Chargers, Bennett remained seated in protest as the national anthem played in the stadium. In a video interview with ESPN, he not only discussed his concerns about standing (or sitting) alone with so many eyes upon him, but also the need for a white player to join in protest to shift the perception of protest from that of a defensive act to one starting a dialogue.
A transcript of his remarks explains how he thinks more diverse participation, namely by a white player, could advance the conversation more than anything up to this point:
“At this point, you just gotta keep speaking and hopefully other guys will join you. I honestly believe that it would take a white player to really get things changed. When somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak about it, it would change the whole conversation because you bring somebody who doesn’t really have to be part of the conversation to make themselves vulnerable in front of it. I think when that happens things will really take a big jump.”
His stance on hoping for participation by white players is well documented; he spoke to the matter last September amid Colin Kaepernick’s controversial refusal to stand for the national anthem. He told the Seattle Times:
“You need a white guy to join the fight. The white guy is super important to the fight. For people to really see social injustices, there must be someone from the other side of the race who recognizes the problem, because a lot of times if just one race says there’s a problem, nobody is realistic about it.”
While public statements such as these may scare off many players, Bennett has built his reputation as a player who speaks his mind. Plus, he recently signed a three-year contract, ensuring he doesn’t suffer the same “black balling” that Kaepernick did at the hands of NFL front offices.
Earlier this year, the Seahawk’s star defensive end boycotted a trip to Israel sponsored by their government, saying “I will not be used in such a way,” after learning that he was invited to bolster the nation’s agenda.
As for the matters of the protest to discuss domestic social issues, Bennett may have the support of other black players, but the silence of white players on the matter continues to be deafening.