Packers: Martellus Bennett lauds his brother’s decision to protest during national anthem
GREEN BAY — Martellus Bennett didn’t necessarily want to talk Tuesday about the recent unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, or about NFL players’ silent protests during pregame renditions of the national anthem — including that of his brother Michael, a defensive end with the Seattle Seahawks who sat through The Star-Spangled Banner before Sunday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Green Bay Packers’ outspoken veteran tight end wishes he lived in a society that was beyond all this.
“It’s 2017,” Bennett said. “I shouldn’t have to worry about guys in lynch mobs and (expletive) in Virginia. I should be driving a (expletive) flying car right now. You know what I’m saying?”
To be clear, the affable Bennett wasn’t in any way making light of the ugly events on and around the University of Virginia campus over the weekend, or of his brother’s decision to speak out against them following his sideline sit-in during the anthem. And Bennett wouldn’t say Tuesday whether he will sit during the national anthem before the Packers’ preseason game at Washington on Saturday night.
“I’m more of an in-the-moment type guy. I don’t pre-plan anything like that,” Bennett said. “If it happens, it happens. I’ll never do anything out of malicious intent.”
But, Bennett said, he wholeheartedly supports his brother, as well as Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, who sat during the anthem before the Raiders’ preseason opener at Arizona as well, and ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the trend last season. And, Bennett said, he believes athletes should speak out on social issues — even if some fans think they should stick to playing football.
Bennett also took exception with ex-Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, who played AAU basketball with Bennett in high school in Texas, after Finley wrote in a since-deleted Tweet that he believes athletes should “leave personal opinions about race and politics alone.” Finley opined that players should “do what you get paid to do (and) play” instead of speaking out about causes they believe in.
“It’s like saying, ‘You’re a doctor, you have no opinion; you’re a teacher, you have no opinion. You’re a truck driver, we don’t care what you’ve got to say,’ ” Bennett said. “Or, ‘You’re a reporter, why the (expletive) are you writing something about politics, you should stick to sports.’ It makes no sense. … A lot of guys have been programmed for so long that we have to reprogram the youth so that they can think differently.
“My impact is more about the future. I worry about the country and the world and the safety that we’re in — not so much for myself, because I feel like I’m already (expletive) — but more for my daughter and my kids. I want to better the future for her so she won’t have to go through what we’re going through. There’s a lot of stuff that’s repeating itself that shouldn’t.”
Bennett said he hadn’t spoken with his brother before or since his protest, but that Michael has his full support — as do Lynch, Kaepernick and any other player who chooses to protest.
“I support Michael in everything he does. He’s very well-educated on what it is he wants to happen in the world and what he’s trying to communicate, and I think he does an awesome job,” Bennett said. “I love him to death, and I think he’s very courageous in the position he’s in and the things that he says. And I’m very proud to be his brother and to see him make the impact that he does — not just with stances like that but the work that he does in the community, the type of father that he is. If there’s anybody you can look up to, it’s Mike.
“I support him, I support his movement, I support Colin Kaepernick, I support all the guys, (political activist) Angela Davis, all the people that came before us to pave the way for what we’re trying to do in the black community. I support everybody and always will.”