To Raise Awareness, A NFL Player Spoke Out Following A Recent Encounter With Police

"The system failed me."

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett posted an important message to Twitter on Wednesday morning in which he recounts a recent encounter with police which speaks to the broader issue of police violence in the United States.

According to Bennett, while on his way back to his hotel after attending the Mayweather-McGregor fight in Las Vegas on August 26, he and many others in the area ran from what sounded like gun shots. That's when, according Bennett, "police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time."



The 31-year-old NFL star says one officer ordered him to the ground, then "placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would 'blow my fucking head off.'" He adds that a second officer "forcefully jammed his knee into my back making it difficult for me to breathe," before he was handcuffed "so tight that my fingers went numb." He writes that the "excessive use of force was unbearable," adding that he felt "helpless" and feared for his life.

The Las Vegas Police Department are investigating the incident.

A brief video from the incident was obtained by TMZ. It shows Bennett lying face down on the sidewalk while an officer handcuffs him. "I wasn't doing nothing!" he tells the officer. "They told us to get out, everybody ran!"

"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,'" Bennett, a father of three, writes in the message. "My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of my girls. Would I ever play with them again? Or watch them have kids? Or be able to kiss my wife again and tell her I love her?"

Bennett says police kept him in the back of a patrol car "for what felt like an eternity" until they realized who he was and released him "without any legitimate justification" for their conduct.

"I have always held a strong conviction that protesting or standing up for justice is just simply, the right thing to do," Bennett writes, adding that this is why he has chosen not to stand during the National Anthem, a decision he announced last month after witnessing the violent events in Charlottesville. He follows the lead of former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, whose peaceful protest of the unjust treatment of Black Americans was met with controversy last year. 

Bennett also emphasizes that, as shown by his story, racial discrimination can affect even the most famous and wealthy in society. On the other hand, by speaking out, Bennett is using his platform to address a problem that affects many Americans, many of whom do not have the same reach or resources.

His post draws attention to an important issue — one which, over the past few years, has spurred increased support for the Black Lives Matter movement. It's also backed up by research. One study has reported that you are 3.49 times more likely to be shot by police if you are Black and unarmed than White and unarmed. Additionally, analysis of the Washington Post's data on police violence found that Black males made up more than a quarter of all unarmed police killings during the first six months of 2017.

"The system failed me," Bennett writes in his social media message, before invoking the names of several victims of police violence. "I can only imagine what Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Charleena Lyles felt."

Bennett's post has received a outpouring of support from Twitter, where it has already received more than 100,000 retweets. Celebrities and others in the sports industry, including Colin Kaepernick, have praised Bennett for sharing his experience, encouraging others to read his post and offering their solidarity.



Bennett wrote that he is exploring his legal options with Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, and is considering filing a civil rights lawsuit over the officers' treatment.

This isn't the first time Bennett has used his platform to speak out and give back. Earlier this year, he was inspired by Chance the Rapper's $1 million donation to Chicago Public Schools to donate all of his 2017 endorsement money to programs helping minority communities and empowering women of color. He also vowed to donate 50 percent of his jersey sales this year to support inner city garden projects.

"Any company that decides to invest in me, just know that you'll be investing in opportunities and providing inspiration for these families — many who feel unnoticed or go unmentioned," he wrote on Instagram at the time, encouraging other athletes to follow suit.

Cover image via Mat Hayward / Shutterstock.com.

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.