On Wednesday, September 6, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett announced that he had suffered police brutality last month and had hired a civil rights attorney as a result. Bennett’s account was at least partially confirmed by TMZ, and even the NFL commissioner issued a statement regarding the event. All of this is amplified by Bennett’s refusal to stand during the national anthem before games.
First, let’s review Bennett’s statement regarding the event, which happened following the McGregor-Mayweather fight on August 27. In his letter posted to twitter, he states that following the fight, he heard what he believed to be gunshots. Like many around him, he ran away from the sounds. Members of the Las Vegas police department pointed guns and him and demanded his compliance. Bennett got on the ground, after which the officer held a gun next to his head and told him he would blow his “[expletive] head off.” Bennett described feeling terrified and thinking of his wife and daughters.
In the end, his fear was that he was going to be killed “for no other reason than that I am black and that my skin color is somehow a threat.” TMZ has posted a video of Bennett being handcuffed, but the LVPD has not yet confirmed the series of events. The organization Color of Change has begun a petition asking for release of the officers’ identities and body armor footage. Bennett has hired John Burris to explore options include a civil rights lawsuit.
What complicates this is that Bennett has been outspoken about police violence and racism in America. He has refused to stand during the national anthem before NFL games, a trend that was started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick (who is still unsigned). Many players, including Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, also use their platform to show their protest.
Later on Wednesday afternoon, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is often seen as the opposition to the players and the voice of the owners, issued his own statement. Goodell describes Bennett as “a leader on his team and in his community” and in a strong statement said the following:
“We will support Michael and all NFL players in promoting mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they loyally serve and fair and equal treatment under the law.”
The next step is to hear from the Las Vegas Police Department.
On a related note, I learned last month that Cisco Systems has a mobile collaboration offering specifically aimed to help digitize law enforcement. This includes body armor that tests stress levels and can upload video and audio to a centralized location. This allows dispatchers to make instant decisions with better intelligence. A sensor in the officer’s service weapon can automatically power on microphones and cameras when the weapon is drawn. This type of data can help law enforcement make decisions in real time, and can build archives of data to determine if an officer’s actions follow procedure.
I’ll update here and on social media as more information is available.