Former Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, a longtime advocate in the fight against racial inequality, is calling out the NFL for its stance on the Black Lives Matter movement.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end said the NFL’s efforts to support player protests and causes can’t erase the fact that many team owners have supported President Donald Trump.
“If you’re supporting him, then your letter is really null and void,” Bennett, a free agent, said in regard to team statements and a video apology by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
According to multiple reports, at least eight NFL team owners collectively donated close to $8 million to Trump’s inaugural committee in 2016. Even after Trump publicly criticized the NFL for its stance on players protesting and called for fans to boycott games, some owners still supported him. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is serving as the Trump-appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan said he supports Trump’s economic policies, and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross hosted a Trump fundraiser in the Hamptons last year.
As a result, Bennett doesn’t believe the NFL is being genuine in actively fighting racism.
“[Goodell] saying that Black lives matter is almost like a slap in the face,” Bennett said. “Black talent has been exploited at a high level in the NFL. He knows Black lives matter, because without Black players the NFL wouldn’t be as lucrative as it is.”
This isn’t the first time Bennett has called out the NFL for not doing enough to address social issues. In August 2016, Bennett criticized NFL players, particularly the league’s stars, for not being at the forefront of change.
In addition to statements and messages in support of player protests and racial equality, the NFL announced Thursday it will commit $250 million over 10 years as part of its initiative to combat systemic racism. Bennett, however, believes the NFL needs to show more than just words and money to prove it’s indeed a fighter for change.
“Is the intent of the NFL to really make a positive impact, or is it not to be seen as if they don’t respect the players?” Bennett asked. “We have to continuously push the NFL to change its core values and change its moral compass on a consistent basis.”
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