For Michael Bennett, an important part of being a professional athlete is making the most of the platform that his fame and fortune provide him. And for the Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end, that doesn't just mean speaking out when he feels something needs to be said—though he's more than willing to do just that—it also requires action.
"How do you fix the problem?" Bennett said. "How do you go about trying to create something and not just sit around talking about it? Implementation is something that's super important on top of the activism and speaking out about things you know are right."
That idea of implementation, of action to back up words, is what led Bennett to announce earlier this month that he will donate all of his endorsement money and half the proceeds from sales of his jersey to, as he wrote in an Instagram post, "help rebuild minority communities through s.t.e.a.m. (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) programs, as well as initiatives that directly affect women of color in hopes that we can create more opportunities for our youth and build a brighter future."
"It's one of those things where I want to invest in my community, and I want other athletes to go invest in their communities," Bennett said Wednesday. "If nobody else is going to invest in our communities, we should be the ones to go back and do something organic—try to create programs so disadvantaged youth can get opportunities that they don't have."
Another focus for Bennett, who through his own foundation has been fighting childhood obesity for several years, is the building of inner-city gardens, something he has already put more than $350,000 towards in Seattle, his hometown of Houston, and his current offseason home, Honolulu.
"I want to inspire other athletes, I want to inspire other people to go back and do it," Bennett said. "There's so many great people doing so much good work, and all they need is more funds, or they need more word of mouth about what they're doing. It's one of those things where you want to inspire people to go back and create something in their communities.
"I've always felt strongly about (giving back), but it's finding a way to make it work; finding a way to be able to bridge that gap, finding a way to use our platform for good, not just being marketed, but more about helping change the community. How do we change our communities? How do we take that platform that Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali and all these great athletes set up for us and follow in their footsteps?"
In addition to the endorsement and jersey sale money he recently pledged and the work he continues to do through his foundation, Bennett has also gotten behind the effort of free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick to help send food and water to Somalia.
Bennett and Kaepernick have become friends while also being NFC West rivals in part because they share a desire to use their platforms for good. Kaepernick, who has been a big part of the Love Army for Somalia effort to send food and water to the drought-affected African country, also recently donated $50,000 to Meals on Wheels. Bennett has noticed progress in recent years when it comes to athlete philanthropy, but he still wants to see more of his fellow athletes step up the way Kaepernick and others have.
"I think we're starting to see more athletes involved in their communities, but on top of that, we need to do more organically," Bennett said. "We need to be able to go into our communities and find out what people need, find out how we can help. I think athletes are starting to figure that out that there's more to them than just catching a ball, there's more than just running and tackling. They create hope for kids. Hope is what kids see when they see us.
"It's everybody's job to take care of every human being to make sure we all can live great lives."
Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett launched 'The Bennett Foundation' to fight childhood obesity through community outreach, healthy living, and education.