Michael Bennett incident shows athletes must speak up about police brutality

As a young black male I can say that these experiences are sadly the reality, not the anomoly, writes Sportsnet reporter Donnovan Bennett

On Wednesday, Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett accused Las Vegas police of pointing guns at him and using excessive force during an incident after the McGregor-Mayweather fight.

He took to Twitter to explain how he felt being the victim of alleged police brutality.

Bennett received an outpouring of support on social media, but some also accused him of dramatizing events. The “stick to sports” crowd was also out in full force, doubling down on the assertion Bennett shouldn’t be protesting police during the national anthem before his games, something he’s done since 2016.

Then TMZ released video of a portion of the interaction.

A spokesperson for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has denied that race played a part in the incident, but added that they’re investigating. The department also released a five-minute version of the video that seems to corroborate Bennett’s story.

Bennett’s supporters will say this incident underscores why he has chosen to use his platform to be vocal about the deaths of Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Philando Castile and others at the hands of police.

Count me among them because I can relate. I’ve written a fair bit on athletes such as Colin KaepernickLeBron James and Bennett standing up for social causes.

Each time I’ve seen pushback in my Twitter mentions saying I’m too liberal or playing the race card or showing bias.

Truth is I am somewhat biased. As a university student in London, Ont., I was pulled over by police upwards of 20 times over my four years of schooling. Other than having the odd light bulb out or expired licence-plate sticker, most times I was released without an explanation of why I was stopped. I was never arrested.

WATCH: Who’s policing the police?

A few years after graduation I was startled one night by police banging on my door. I opened it up to find two officers with guns drawn berating me and making fun of me. This went on for a while until one officer realized my bewilderment wasn’t an act. They had gotten the wrong address. Instead of asking for ID, they had asked to see my hands in the air. They assumed I was the man they were looking for as I “fit the profile.”

These are details I haven’t shared with many people, even family and friends. I include them now not for pity, but because as a young black male I can say that these experiences are sadly the reality—not the anomaly. And unless you’ve been in those terrified shoes, it’s hard to comprehend how it feels.

But understanding that—or at least trying to—makes it a lot easier to see why millionaire athletes would use your source of entertainment as a vehicle for change.

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