Packers’ Martellus Bennett backs his brother, says athletes have a right to speak up

Michael and Martellus Bennett are very similar people in the way in which they express themselves. So it was no surprise to see the latter show his support for the former’s decision to remain seated during the national anthem prior to the Seattle Seahawks preseason opener on Sunday.

“I think he’s very well educated on what he wants to happen in the world and what he’s trying to communicate,” Martellus Bennett said Tuesday of his brother, a defensive end for the Seahawks. “I think he does an awesome job and I love him to death. I think he’s very courageous in the position he’s in and the things he says.”

Michael Bennett’s decision to sit came a year after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first drew criticism for sitting during the anthem as a way to protest what he viewed as the oppression of people of color in the United States. And more timely, Bennett’s display came a day after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent, resulting in the death of one counter protestor and more than 30 injuries to others in attendance.

On Monday, former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley posted, in a tweet that has since been deleted, that athletes are role models that should leave personal opinions about race and politics alone. Essentially, be quiet and play the game. Martellus Bennett, the Packers current tight end, was not OK with that.

LISTEN: Martellus Bennett addresses the media following Tuesday’s practice

“He says we should be role models, but what role is he modeling? It’s like saying you’re a doctor and have no opinion. You’re a teacher, you have no opinion,” said Bennett, who signed with the Packers in the offseason. “You’re a truck driver. We don’t care what you have to say. Or you’re a reporter, why are you writing something about politics? You should stick to sports. It makes no sense.

“I don’t know what his intentions were, but I think there’s a lot of bad information just programmed [into us]. Guys have been programmed for so long that we have to re-program the youth so that they can think differently.

“I worry about the world and the country and the state we are in, not so much for myself, because I feel liked I’m already (expletive), but more for my daughter and my kids. I want to better the future for her so she doesn’t have to go through what we’re going through. There’s a lot of stuff that is repeating itself that shouldn’t. It’s 2017. I shouldn’t have to worry about guys with lynch mobs in Virginia. I should be flying a (expletive) car right now. What the hell?”

Asked if he might follow in his brother’s footsteps and stay seated on Saturday during the national anthem in Washington D.C., Bennett wasn’t willing to say one way or the other.

“I’m more of an in-the-moment type guy,” he said. “I don’t pre-plan anything like that. If it happens, it happens.”

Wisconsin sports becoming frontlines for Anthem protests

MADISON, Wis. — It’s becoming a ubiquitous scene in the sports world; athletes kneeling or using other forms of protest during the playing of the National Anthem before sporting events.

The idea was reborn on Aug. 26 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to take a stand by sitting down during the Anthem before their preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick defended himself from the critics by pointing to the fact that many African-Americans have been facing racial injustices and he refuses to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

His supporters heard him loud and clear. Coach Mike McCarthy took the message back to Green Bay and said that while he’d personally prefer his players to stand for the Anthem, he said there needs to be open dialogue about the issues facing people of color.

 

NBA players don’t have a choice but to stand during the playing of the National Anthem due to a rule put in place by then-commissioner David Stern in 1996. The rule was in response to Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who didn’t participate in the pregame ceremony the previous season, instead either remaining in the locker room or stretching on the sidelines. His actions cost him almost $32,000 of his $2.6 million salary while he was suspended for one game.

The Milwaukee Bucks obeyed that rule in Monday night’s preseason win over the Chicago Bulls, standing in solidarity while still pointing to the racial issues plaguing the country. The team, as well as the entire coaching staff, stood in a line with their arm draped over the shoulder of the man next to him.

Forward Jabari Parker told media members after the game that it was important for the team to show support for the movement but to also be respectful.

“It just shows that through it all, thick and thin, you’ve got to have each other’s back,” Parker said. “Regardless of your skin color, regardless of your race or where you come from if you see something happening you’ve got to speak up, you’ve got to stand for change.

Bucks president Peter Feigin has been outspoken about diversity in recent weeks, telling the Rotary Club in Madison, Wis. that racism and segregation are a big component of what’s creating a divide in Milwaukee and that their construction of a new arena and entertainment district aims to bring togetherness through a common goal.

But it doesn’t end in Milwaukee.

University of Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes isn’t afraid to voice his opinion on controversial issues, joining a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA in an effort to financially compensate student-athletes for their roles to the university. His Twitter account has also come to the forefront with his thoughts on racial inequality and racism.

nigel-tweet

Hayes’ coach, Greg Gard, supported his star player for his stance, while admitting it’s been a learning experience for him as well.

 

Even at the high school level players are taking part in the pregame protests. During Madison East’s Sept. 23 Homecoming game against Madison West, the entire team took a kneel prior to the game, while some coaching staff members did as well. That was met with some resistance, however, as one anonymous staff member responded to a text message with the response “No [I don’t care to comment]. And my players are off limits too, so don’t reach out to them. Direct all questions to the administration.”

Members of the community have taken action during this trying time. Madison West police officer Reggie Davis, who grew up on the city’s east side and dealt with racial issues of his own, took part in a gathering this weekend for “Madison’s Premiere Black Male Photo Shoot.” It was an event featuring several prominent black community members whose goal was to show they can be role models and should not be depicted as thugs.

Davis is a former semi-professional football player for the Madison Mustangs and Madison Wolves. He says although he recently retired, he is still supportive of his peers’ cause.

“I would have respected [my teammates] for expressing their right to protest,” Davis said in a direct message. “We all don’t have to agree with the approach of a protest but we can respect a person for standing up for what they believe in.”

There’s no denying racial inequality has once again become an important issue, but it’s the ability to speak freely about one’s stance that’s needed to make the necessary changes so that all made lead a better life.

If given an opportunity, one Wisconsin player would kneel for the national anthem

MADISON | At no point this season is it expected the Wisconsin football team will be on the field for the national anthem. They are still in the locker room during home games at Camp Randall Stadium, and on the road, even if the other team comes out for it, the Badgers pre-game routine is to take the field afterwards.

But if given a chance, at least one player on Wisconsin’s roster would not be standing.

Sophomore safety Arrington Farrar said that he would follow the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and kneel during the anthem as a way of showing his displeasure for — and bring awareness to — the way African Americans and people of color are treated in the United States.

“I feel like I’d have to do it. I’d feel terrible if I did stand,” Farrar said after practice on Wednesday.

“People are dying, man. You can’t sit there and be like, ‘This is just America.’ You can’t be OK with that. You can’t be like, ‘It’s not going to change.’ I think it’s ridiculous.

“Perfection isn’t possible, but you can chase it. That’s the only way you can get better. Just chasing perfection. Even though you know you won’t get there, you still have to chase perfection.”

Farrar made clear that any decision to kneel would not be intended as disrespect for those in the armed forces and others that lost their lives for the freedom Americans enjoy.

“I appreciate everything they do,” he said. “9/11, I think is a big deal. And if I were in the NFL, I wouldn’t have kneeled on 9/11. But any other day, you’ve got to recognize America isn’t perfect. But perfection, it’s something you’ve got to strive for.”

Farrar, who is from Atlanta and went to a prep school where the African-American population makes up about 30% of the student body, said he hasn’t been personally affected by the violence seen in Minnesota, Louisiana and Milwaukee over the summer, and again in Oklahoma and Charlotte this week.

“For me personally, none of these things are happening to me or my relatives or anything like that,” he said. “But just because it’s not my reality, doesn’t mean it’s not other people’s reality. I can’t ignore their reality just because of my personal experiences. I can’t sit there and be quiet while this happens.”

Though he didn’t have a specific number, Farrar said in the event that Wisconsin is on the field for the anthem at some point this year, he didn’t think he’d be the only player to take a knee. But added that what his teammates do or don’t do wouldn’t impact his decision.

“You can’t let your legacy be, ‘I played football really well,’” he said. “You’ve got to use your platform. You’ve got to use your voice.”

Wisconsin is one of five schools in the Big Ten that never have their players on the field for the national anthem.