Martellus Bennett was never shy to speak up during his NFL playing days.
Not much has changed since he left football.
The 10-year NFL tight end who retired in 2017 was invited to speak at an “Athletes + Activism” forum hosted by The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill in Washington on Thursday.
Bennett takes on race, domestic abuse
He did not hesitate to take on tough issues, calling for white quarterbacks to step up on issues of race and calling out domestic abusers in the NFL by name.
Bennett, who raised a black-gloved fist during the national anthem while playing with the Green Bay Packers and chose to remain in the locker room during the national anthem while playing for the New England Patriots, called on prominent white quarterbacks to join the movement catalyzed by Colin Kaepernick to draw attention to racial inequality and social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
Bennett calls on Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady
"If Peyton Manning joined the conversation, the conversation in the NFL would change,” Bennett said. “If Drew Brees came in and really joined the conversation, it would change. Tom Brady. All these great white heroes that they have running around, throwing the football — if they jump into the conversation, it would be so much bigger.”
Not ‘another one of these guys’ protesting
Bennett contended that white Americans who might be ignorant of some of the issues that minorities face would be more apt to educate themselves on the police brutality and workplace inequality that plague some communities.
"If they were to take a knee with Colin Kaepernick, that conversation would totally change," Bennett said. "If Tom Brady took a knee, white America would be like, 'Oh my God. What is this that Tom Brady's talking about?'
“They would start doing research and would join in the conversation. It would pique their interest. But since it's a black guy taking a knee, it's like, 'Alright, these guys, here he goes again. It's another one of these guys out here doing this.’”
Bennett: It needs to be a quarterback
Bennett acknowledged that white players in the NFL have joined the conversation and gave credit to his friend and former teammate Chris Long, whom he won a Super Bowl with playing for the 2016 Patriots.
Long was an active supporter of the protest cause as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. But he was a defensive end. And, as Bennett pointed out, it’s the quarterbacks in the NFL who have real power.
"Chris Long [joined] the conversation, but he's a defensive end," Bennett said. "I love Chris Long. Chris Long is my boy. Shoutout to Chris. But it's not the position.”
Bennett’s zero tolerance for domestic abusers
Bennett didn’t stop on the subject of anthem protests. He took a strong stance on domestic abuse in the NFL, a problem that has once again been a significant offseason issue in light of the Tyreek Hill situation with the Kansas City Chiefs.
While the league constantly struggles with how to handle domestic abusers, Bennett has a simple solution. Ban them from the NFL.
“If you hit a woman you should not be playing football,” Bennett said. “There’s not any excuse for child abuse. I don’t whip my daughter. … Hitting a child to me at this position is ridiculous.
“Watching the video of Ray Rice. I wanted to choke the s--- out of Ray Rice. I wanted to punch him in the face. If they’re on my team, I have issues with these guys. I’m gonna tackle them every single day.”
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