Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
“I will not be used in such a way,” Bennett wrote about a trip hosted by the Israeli government in February.
A trip organized by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy invited several NFL players to partake.
Bennett concluded it was a propaganda trip.
“When I go to Israel — and I do plan to go — it will be to see not only Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza so I can see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives, ” he wrote. “I was excited to see this remarkable and historic part of the world with my own eyes. I was not aware until reading this article about the trip in the Times of Israel that my itinerary was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purposes of making me, in the words of a government official, an ‘influencer and opinion-former’ who would then be ‘an ambassador of good will.’ I will not be used in such a manner,” Bennett said.
His decision was shortly made after an open letter published in The Nation that called for players to boycott the trip. The letter targets the Israeli government using BDS by weakening Israel enough so it ends its occupation of Palestinian territories. Many artists, athletes, activists, politicians and churches support the movement.
The letter in part said:
To the NFL Delegation to Israel:
“We are writing to you as individuals and groups who work in support of human rights and collective liberation and admire many of you who have been outspoken in movements for freedom and justice in the United States. We have been especially inspired by you using your celebrity to shed light about and support various struggles including Black Lives Matter. The decision by Martellus Bennett to boycott the upcoming Patriots team visit to the White House following the Super Bowl win is especially brave and sends a clear message that one must take a stand against racism and oppression…”
Bennett has been in a firestorm of contention before. He ostracized NFL players for not using their platform to become more vocal regarding social issues.
“For people to really see social injustices, there must be someone from the other side of the race who recognizes the problem, because a lot of times if just one race says there’s a problem, nobody is realistic about it,” Bennett told The Seattle Times after San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the Nation Anthem in 2016.
He also voiced his views on the Black Lives Matter movement in response to cornerback Richard Sherman comments about black-on-black crime.
“All I want to do is get everybody on the same page,” said Bennett. “To create something great where we all come together and be super positive — and bring the NFL into it.”