Michael Bennett charges abusive police treatment: 'The system failed me'

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has begun his own national anthem protest, intending to use his celebrity status to document, and hopefully improve, systemic racial inequality in America. On Wednesday morning, under the title “Equality,” Bennett posted a story on Twitter that gave a grim, personal underline to his reasons for protesting.


TMZ posted a video of Bennett being handcuffed while he was forced by a police officer to lay face-first on the sidewalk.


 

Bennett indicated he was in Las Vegas for the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight last month, and following the fight, was in the midst of a crowd when apparent gunshots rang out. In the chaos that ensued, Bennett said police officers singled him out, ordered him to the ground and warned that if he moved, the officers would “blow [his expletive] head off.” Another officer placed his knee on Bennett’s back and cinched handcuffs on him “so tight that my fingers went numb.”

Bennett said he tried to ask what he’d done to deserve the treatment, and was ignored. “All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.’ My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of my girls. Would I ever play with them again? Or watch them have kids? Or be able to kiss my wife again and tell her I love her?”

Later, Bennett was placed in the back of a squad car and held until officers determined his identity: ” … not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man,” he wrote, “but Michael Bennett, a famous professional football player.” Bennett says he was not given a reason for either his detainment or his treatment.

Bennett tied the incident to his ongoing protests: “Equality doesn’t live in this country, and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have, or how much you give, when you are seen as a [racist term], you will be treated that way. The system failed me.”

Bennett indicated that he has retained counsel to investigate legal options.

In a statement via Twitter, the Las Vegas Police Department said:


Shortly before the incident, Bennett spoke to Yahoo Sports and offered up his reasoning for remaining seated during the national anthem. “When you get in the position on a platform where you get a chance to give back and create opportunities for others, that’s where I want my legacy to be,” he said. “Over the last four or five years, my story has been shared more than in the past. I want to create opportunities for others. I want to raise the bar about what we can do as athletes and people. I think that’s where I want my legacy to be and that’s where it has been cultivated.”

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has been phasing in the use of body cameras since 2014. The state of Nevada will require all police officers to wear body cameras, but that requirement does not take effect until next year. Depending on where the incident occurred, it is also possible that passersby on the crowded Las Vegas streets could have captured the detainment on phone video.

Yahoo Sports has reached out to Las Vegas police for comment.

Michael Bennett (L) remains seated for the national anthem. (AP)

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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