Social Justice Activism and Hope…from the NFL*?

*well, from its players anyway

I haven’t paid a lick of attention to the NFL for at least 10 years now. A combination of looking the other way at domestic violence, ignoring the growing body of evidence about head trauma, and Kroenke-ism drove me away.

I haven’t missed it one bit, and frankly I kind of rooted for its downfall.

But now…now, I’m wondering if I’d like it to keep its prominence, because some of its players have awoken to their own individual power and maybe, just maybe they can make a difference. Not for sports, the silly diversion, but for society.

Yes, there is Coline Kaepernick — who now seems blackballed for his anthem protests, though maybe he’s not a great player either, I don’t know — but also Michael Bennett. Holy cow, I think I love this guy.
The Undefeated

So much from this feature on The Undefeated on Bennett, “Seahwks Michael Bennett is an Activist Disguised as a Football Player.” He gets the power of the modern athlete:

“We have to challenge the brands too. This is the generation where the athlete has the brand by the neck because we are the brand. We are the products. A long time ago it was the brand, and they controlled everything. Now, through social media, the athletes control the brand. We must keep these companies socially accountable.”

…and while many modern pro athletes come off as dunces, who recognize that branding power only to a degree of cynical self-enrichment, Bennett is talking about using it for something else entirely:

Which brings us back to Bennett and his M.O. for advancing social justice.

“To be uncomfortable and turn that to comfortability is a hard transition for a human being,” Bennett says. “Because you get so comfortable being who you are, you get so comfortable living in your world. … To have that sense of being uncomfortable and being vulnerable — and those things work together. I mean, it’s hard to be vulnerable and be in a moment where you think, ‘I am uncomfortable, I don’t know anything about it, but I want to learn.’”

He’s taking on every topic relevant to our time, it seems:

“This is how I know that women aren’t seen as equal,” Bennett says. “Every time I tell somebody I have a daughter, the first thing they tell me is, ‘You better get a gun.’”

Sons prompt comments about running a successful business or becoming star athletes.

Including the very football-focused issue of, hmm, well, does this sport even make sense to play in its current incarnation?:

“The issues that fans don’t really care about are the issues that the players care about. Health issues, marital issues, how to raise a family, the concussion issue. Those are real issues that fans don’t want to associate with the game,” Bennett says. “As much as you cherish that game, those issues are the same things you need to cherish, too, because there’s a possibility that every time you look at Cam Newton, and you want him to duck his head on the fourth-and-1 … when you want Marshawn Lynch to run and do that, there’s a possibility that one day he won’t be able to think the same way. As much as you love Russell Wilson and the way that he moves and he shakes, there’s a possibility one day he won’t be able to walk.”


P.S.: Support from a white teammate from rural Missouri, Michael Britt:

We need more Britts.