Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was featured in The Root 100, an annual list of the most influential African Americans between the ages of 25 to 45. The list honors innovators, leaders, public figures and more from the past year who conducted work to break barriers and pave the way for the next generation.
The Root compiles the list using an algorithm calculating reach (impact through social media) and substance (the impact of their work) which determines their influence/ranking.
Among the 100 African Americans providing an influence in arts, community work, business, entertainment, media, politics, STEM and sports, Bennett made the list at No. 45 just behind athletes LeBron James (35), Stephen Curry (26), Kevin Durant (24) and Colin Kaepernick (17).
From The Root:
*In addition to running his charity, the Bennett Foundation, the star's national anthem protest has made him one of the most outspoken and progressive voices in the NFL. *
*Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick may have caused a firestorm by sitting out the national anthem to protest police violence, but NFL Pro Bowler Michael Bennett has kept the fire burning. The Seattle Seahawks defensive end not only joined Kaepernick's cause, but he has kept it going well into the new season. In fact, Bennett—who supports the #BlackLivesMatter movement and is outspoken on police violence—refuses to stand during America's theme song, and he's challenged other stars, especially the NFL's white players, to join the cause. *
During his availability with the media on Thursday, Bennett was appreciative of the honor.
"I think it was a big honor to see that and be on a list with those type of people," Bennett said.
This season, Bennett is using his platform to make a difference and take a stand against injustice in the world. Bennett made his own decision and decided to sit for the national anthem with the hopes of drawing attention to himself to challenge others to make their communities better. His efforts will continue as the season progresses.
"I'm just lucky to be here right now and to be able to continuously fight for people, fight for the equality of all people regardless of their color, their gender, regardless of all that. I'm just going to continuously do what I've been doing," Bennett said. "It's a hard journey, sometimes you feel like you're alone, but there's a lot of people who support me and I just want to keep doing what I do.
"I've got great people around me. I thank the organization for their support, but this is bigger than me."
Bennett was among the four players — joining Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin and Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith — who sent a memo to the NFL asking the league for public and financial support for their social change efforts through a social activism awareness month that would potentially take place in November. Bennett said the panel of players envision the month being something where people can wear apparel supporting equality, race and other issues around the country that need more awareness.
"It takes a lot for a business or an organization to get behind certain issues and we're hoping to keep pushing it to see if we can ever get to that place where we can be comfortable with talking about the issues that are going on around the country," Bennett said.
Bennett's impact away from the football field has been exceptional. His foundation, The Bennett Foundation, helps prevent childhood obesity and provides and feeds underprivileged children in communities. He also pledged to donate all of his 2017 endorsement money and half the proceeds from his jersey sales in 2017 to help rebuild minority communities and empower women of color.
Bennett's brother, Martellus, was also featured on the list at No. 55. In addition to being vocal about racial injustice, Bennett has impacted many through his multimedia company, the Imagination Agency, which inspires children to be creative and look beyond the world of sports for a road to success.
"Yeah, it's pretty cool," Bennett said when asked about him and Martellus being listed. "Two brothers, that's very rare to be able to both be able to impact our communities."
In July, the Bennett brothers were honored at the 2017 BET Awards for their community efforts. Both of them will surely continue to grow their influence in the coming months.