Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett released a statement Wednesday morning explaining that he was a victim of excessive force and racial profiling by Las Vegas police as they investigated an incident in a casino last month.
Bennett described the situation in a post on Twitter and said the incident occurred after he watched the boxing fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. Bennett said he was en route to his hotel after the fight before hearing what sounded like gun shots. While looking for safety, Bennett said a police officer ordered him to the ground before pointing a gun at his head and telling him not to move or he would "blow my (expletive) head off." Bennett said a second police officer forced his knee on his back and made it difficult for him to breathe before handcuffing and placing him in a police car. He was not arrested or charged that evening.
"It is a traumatic experience for me, my family and it sucks that the country we live in now, sometimes you get profiled for the color of your skin and it is a tough situation for me," Bennett emotionally explained Wednesday. "Do I think every police officer is bad? No, I don't believe that. Do I believe that there some people out there that judge people by the color of their skin? I do believe that and I'm just focused on trying to push forward and keep continuously championing the quest for justice for people, keeping pushing equality for oppressed people and that's what I am about and going to keep doing."
Bennett said during the experience all he could think about was his wife and three daughters.
"For me, I just want to thank my wife for supporting me," Bennett said. "Without her, I wouldn't be able to have the strength to be up here right now. The whole time, through the whole situation, all I could think about was my wife and my kids. People sometimes think the game (of football) is the most important thing, but for me, the whole time I wasn't thinking about the Super Bowl, I wasn't thinking about what play we were going to run against Green Bay, or sacking Aaron Rodgers, I was just literally thinking about my wife and children and how much they mean to me."
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll began his press conference with the media Wednesday voicing support for Bennett and anyone facing inequalities across the globe.
"Michael Bennett unfortunately experienced a horrendous incident on August 27," Carroll said. "We are thankful he is safe, and we take this opportunity to say that we stand in support of him and anyone facing inequalities.
"What happened with Michael is a classic illustration of the reality of inequality demonstrated daily.
"May this incident inspire all of us to respond with compassion when inequalities are brought to light, and allow us to have the courage to stand for change."
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman also joined in on the support for Bennett. Sherman, who grew up in the inner-city of Compton, California, said he had similar experiences to what Bennett detailed growing up.
"Yeah, yeah I mean I've experienced that," Sherman said. "I've been hemmed up countless times when I was younger. I mean you live in the inner city, that is just how it goes. They are trying to patrol the city, just trying to keep the city safe. A black between the size of 6'4" and 5'3" and they're gonna get you. But thankfully I made it out alive, he made it out alive and we move past it.
"I mean it is unfortunate," Sherman added. "Obviously, I'm happy that he made it out. Day in the life, though, you know. I'm sure as he said, something that he has been through I'm sure and hopefully he doesn't have to go through again, but no amount of money, no amount of fame and no amount of notoriety that could keep you from things like that happening to you …"
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also issued the following statement about Bennett's incident:
With the Seahawks preparing for their regular season opener against the Green Bay Packers, Bennett said his focus right now is simply on the game while his legal team and representatives handle the situation.
"I'm just coming in trying to focus on the game, focus on the task at hand and let everything take care of itself," Bennett said. "Like I said, this is a tragic situation for me, I hate to be up here at this moment, (but) there's a lot of people who experience what I experienced at that moment and they're not here to live to tell their story."
Bennett has used his platform as a professional athlete to make a difference against injustice in the world. This season Bennett made his own decision and decided to sit for the national anthem with the hope of drawing attention to himself to challenge others to make their communities better. He will continue his efforts 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."
Take a look back at some of the best photos of Michael Bennett as the Seahawks defensive end signs a multi-year contract extension with the club.