The special, presented by The Undefeated, airs Sunday night at 5 p.m. on ESPN.

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ESPN host Cari Champion traveled to Birmingham, Ala., the birthplace of the civil rights movement, last week to film a series of conversations with prominent African American athletes and community leaders.

Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett wasn’t one of the nine to join Champion at the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church — among them Rays pitcher Chris Archer, retired NFL receiver Anquan Boldin and James Harris, the first black starting quarterback in the NFL.

Instead, Bennett participated in a pre-taped segment, dubbed “A Letter From Michael Bennett,” in which he speaks on the relationship between police and the black community. Charleena Lyles’ name is the first thing you hear. Bennett has been actively involved in the aftermath of the 30-year-old Seattle woman whom police shot and killed in June after she called 911.

Here’s Bennett’s spoken letter in full:

Charleena Lyles. Michael Brown. Sandra Bland.

How can we trust each other when so many of our people are lost?

Freddie Gray. Tamir Rice.

How can we trust each other when there’s been no justice? How can we trust our system when nobody’s been to jail?

I don’t really know how to make somebody value another human’s life. An officer has to realize what it is like to be a black man and the history of policing in the black community. It’s so emotional for us to forgive because we don’t know how the next story’s going to start. At any moment, a black man who’s in car when they see a police officer, they don’t know what to expect. That this could be their last moment? Should they call their family? Should they tell their wife they love her? Should they call their kids and tell them they might be home tonight? They don’t know. They just don’t know. When all those things have happened, it’s hard for us to trust again.

Policing and serving are two different things. Policing is, you come in and you uphold the law. You’re stopping drug dealers, you’re doing all that stuff. But serving is showing up to community events. When you see a guy pulled over, instead of wondering if he’s selling drugs, maybe his tire really is flat. It’s just about being human beings at the end of the day. I think serving is the first thing we got to do — is to serve the community.

Bennett has become one of the most prominent voices in the NFL in advocating for social justice. He either sat or kneeled during the national anthem in 13 of the Seahawks’ 16 games in 2017, helping lead league-wide protests in the name of police reform and race relations. (He stood during the two Veterans Appreciation games Seattle played in, and remained in the locker room with the rest of the team in Tennessee.)

The one-hour special ‘Dear Black Athlete’ airs on ESPN Sunday night at 5 p.m.

Watch | Michael Bennett on ‘Dear Black Athlete’

Watch | ‘Dear Black Athlete’ trailer


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