NFL Player and Pioneering Activist Michael Bennett Retiring After 11 Seasons
Bennett was a three-time Pro Bowler with 69.5 career sacks
Michael Bennett, a three-time Pro Bowler with 69.5 career sacks and a Super Bowl ring, was never a typical NFL player.
And true to form, the 34-year-old announced his retirement in atypical form this morning, partnering with The New Yorker for a piece on why he’s done with the NFL after 11 seasons.
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Retiring feels a little like death of self, but I’m looking forward to the rebirth – the opportunity to reimagine my purpose. ⠀ I would like to thank my wife and children, who have sacrificed so much for me to succeed. I’m looking forward to supporting them the same way they have me these past 11 years. I have never been more at peace in my life. ⠀ As the great Toni Morrison said: “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.“
Bennett, who was instrumental in keeping the National Anthem protests started by Colin Kaepernick alive after the quarterback was blackballed by the league, told the publication he wants to focus on helping other athletes speak out against racial inequality and give them support. “Not everyone can be a Colin Kaepernick or Maya Moore,” he said.
In 2017, after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Bennett chose to sit on the bench during the national anthem instead of taking a knee to raise awareness about injustice.
“I just wanted to be able to use my platform to be able to continue to speak over injustice,” Bennett said at the time. “First of all, I want people to understand I love the military. My father was in the military. I love hot dogs like any other American. I love football like any other American, but I don’t love segregation. I don’t love riots. I don’t love oppression. I don’t love gender slander.”
The author of 2018’s Things That Make White People Uncomfortable, a public Bernie Sanders supporter and endorser of the Women’s Strike, Bennett entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2009 when he was signed by the Seahawks. Following a stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bennett returned to Seattle prior to the 2013 season and became part of the vaunted “Legion of Boom” defense that helped the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII, a 43-8 drubbing of the Denver Broncos.
The Texas A&M product eventually moved on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 and landed with the New England Patriots before last season. He was traded to Dallas for the final nine weeks of the season and played his last NFL snap as a member of the Cowboys.
Now that he’s retired, Bennett will have more time to spend with fellow social-justice advocate wife Pele, as well as their three daughters.
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