Nearly three years have passed since Colin Kaepernick’s national-anthem protest entered the spotlight, and many NFL players have joined the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback in his effort to combat police brutality and the mistreatment of minorities. Former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett is among them.
Bennett explained Thursday at an “Athletes + Activism” forum hosted by The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill that more still needs to be done, though, and he believes the movement would receive a massive jolt of energy if white quarterbacks supported the cause.
“If Peyton Manning joined the conversation, the conversation in the NFL would change,” Bennett said at the forum in Washington D.C., as transcribed by Yahoo! Sports. “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.”
Kaepernick’s anthem protest, which involved him first sitting and then kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games, hasn’t been limited to black players, as some white players, including Chris Long, have shown support over the past few seasons. But quarterbacks are the faces of the NFL, Bennett argued, and the nation therefore would be more apt to notice/engage if someone like Brady spoke out.
“If they were to take a knee with Colin Kaepernick, that conversation would totally change,” Bennett said, per Yahoo! Sports. “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.'”
“Chris Long (joined) the conversation, but he’s a defensive end,” Bennett added. “I love Chris Long. Chris Long is my boy. Shout out to Chris. But it’s not the position.”
Bennett played for five teams during his 10-year NFL career, which ended when he announced his retirement after the 2017 season. He spent parts of two seasons (2016-17) playing alongside Brady with the New England Patriots and helped the team win Super Bowl LI.
But football is such a small part of Bennett’s life, for he created the Imagination Agency and recently published a book called “Dear Black Boy,” which he hopes will help the world see black children for more than just their athletic ability or potential.
When it comes to Kaepernick’s protest, Bennett followed in the quarterback’s footsteps as a player and hasn’t slowed down since hanging up the cleats. He’s now on a mission to gain as much support as possible in the hopes of making the world a better place.