BY Art Thiel 06:15PM 06/15/2017

Thiel: The 2 QBs that Seahawks’ Bennett likes

Michael Bennett shows he can defend teammates, friends and family as adroitly as he can the Seahawks’ end zone.

Michael Bennett and former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick have a shared view of social activism among athletes. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The ever-expanding social conscience of DE Michael Bennett was on view Wednesday at Seahawks practice. Two themes emerged — he provided shelter from the storm for two put-upon players from the position he likes least (quarterback), and he promoted the notion that he can put football second to the players he likes most (his three daughters).

There was also that social-justice thing, which will get boost from a book he’s co-writing: “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.”

The man is never dull.

First, to the football stuff.

“I like Russell Wilson. I’ve always liked Russell Wilson,” said Bennett to a media scrum at the team’s VMAC headquarters. “He’s the perfect quarterback for our team. He’s a perfect leader. I think everybody on our team sees that.”

While the bromance may seem like something less than breaking news, a May 25 story on ESPN.com suggested the Seahawks were riven with jealousy over Wilson’s supposed favored-son treatment when it came to coaches telling the truth in public and private about responsibility for mistakes.

Bennett made the point that as far as he’s ever known, the QB position may as well change its name to Favored Son, from pee-wee ball to the pros.

“When I was the quarterback in seventh, sixth grade, I used to get more Lunchables than everybody, I got more jelly beans than everybody, because I was the quarterback,” he said. “That’s just how things go. Quarterbacks are the organization.

“If you look at any team in the NFL, if there’s a defensive player that’s the face of your organization, you’re not winning a Super Bowl. That’s a fact . . . The quarterback is the face of the organization that is a playoff team. You can’t show me any different. I think he gets everything he deserves, and I think I get everything I deserve.”

It’s fact of NFL life that because one position has an out-sized impact on the careers of the other 52 guys in uniform, everything he does or doesn’t do gets magnified, in the locker room and in media, times 10. It’s a fact of Patriots’ life that Tom Brady is a jerk more often than not, but his results more than outweigh his lack of huddle etiquette.

“I think Russell is a phenomenal human being,” Bennett said, “not just as an athlete but a leader in the community, the issues that he’s dealing with, the things that he does, how he carries himself, the professional that he is, how he does everything for the organization, how he’s played through injuries, and just him as a man.”

Bennett also thinks a lot of another quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers QB the Seahawks invited in for a free-agent visit. The Seahawks wanted an experienced vet to compete with the unproven Trevone Boykin as backup to Wilson. But Carroll reported that Kaepernick still views himself as a starter, and instead the Seahawks signed Austin Davis, who is not a starter, except three years ago with the Rams when he beat the Seahawks.

In terms of quarterback endorsements, Bennett is one for two.

But his endorsement was more about defending Kaepernick’s outspoken pursuit of social justice, which last year included sitting or kneeling during national anthems. He inspired a national controversy that subsequently made Kaepernick radioactive in the free agent market. Because clubs fear trouble, Bennett said numerous times this off-season Kaepernick has been blackballed.

“Obviously, there’s the elephant in the room why Kaepernick isn’t signed,” he said. “I’m not afraid to say it: I think race and politics in sports is something people don’t want to hear about, nor want to be a part of.

I think if you bring the issue of oppressed people onto a stage where there’s millions of fans watching, there’s dirty little secrets. A lot of people don’t want to hear that. People just want to see people score touchdowns and make big hits. They don’t want to hear about people getting killed by police, or gentrification, or women’s-rights issues. People just want to hear about athletes playing the sports.

“But in this generation, athletes are supposed to use our platform to make change. What are we supposed to do when we are part of America? Are we supposed to just stay in our homes and not speak up on issues? Nah. I think it’s different. I think we are supposed to go back and continuously bring up the issues and continue to inspire our youth that look up to us. That’s our job as athletes. That’s our job as human beings. I think a human-rights issue is everybody’s problem.

“So until everybody thinks it’s a problem, it’s going to continue . . . to be a problem.”

Bennett declined to criticize Carroll for his backup QB choice.

“I think his opinion is a valid opinion. He’s the head coach,” he said.  “If he feels that this is not the right situation because we have a starting quarterback, then that’s his choice. I think he’s able to have that choice because he’s shown that he’s of a winning pedigree.

“He wants to make sure he doesn’t have that competition behind his quarterback. I think it’s justifiable . . . I know the Seahawks were the only team that stepped up and gave him the opportunity (to visit). So that says a lot about the organization.”

Regarding his absence for a third consecutive season of the organized team activities portion of the off-season, a voluntary exercise, Bennett, on the eve of Father’s Day weekend, said he had better things to do.

“I like to be a parent,” he said. “I’ve got daughters. I’m a coach. I’m a teacher at the school. I do things in the community. I try to balance my football life with my actual reality.

“I think it’s important as athletes to find that. I think a lot of times athletes have a problem when they retire because they build an identity around sports. Then when the sport is gone you are lost. So along this way you’ve got to transition yourself. Find different things you can be a part of. Find out who you are.

“I train harder than anyone in the NFL. So I’m not worried about being in shape or being the best player I can be. What I am worried about is how good of a parent I can be, and how much better a husband I can be.”

For as proficient a football defender as he is, Bennett’s defense of his teammates, friends and family is a thing to behold.


YourThoughts

  • Guy K. Browne

    I love that guy… He delivers a sledgehammer of honesty that is just so rare a commodity these days. Bravo Mr. Bennett, may you remain a Seahawk the rest of your playing (and post playing) days.

    • art thiel

      Bennett refuses to go corporate with the business side of his career. I wonder if he would be subject to the same blacklisting as Kap if he were in a similar circumstance.

      • Guy K. Browne

        Which makes him all the more compelling, standing up for his values and principles and his fierce love of family… but yeah, what corporation stands for that? That’s just crazy talk…

        • art thiel

          I’d say some do quite a bit better than others.

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  • bevdog

    Wonderful, inspiring article by a great writer covering a very well balanced human being who is wise beyond his years. Excellent journalism!!

    • art thiel

      Thanks, bevdog. Please tell your friends.

      • John M

        Guess I’ll stumble in and agree with those dishing accolades. Some thoughtful journalism lately, pat yourself for an outstanding week . . .

        • art thiel

          Don’t stumble. John. Run and tell your friends!

  • JohnMS

    Art Thiel is an enjoyable and colorful sports writer. And yes, Bennet is an asset for his talents and desire to win, though it can be argued he should consistently be a team player enough to show up to camp practice and meetings.

    Regarding Kap, majority of fans resent his anti-American, anti-police and disrespect for our flag and sacrifices of soldiers giving him the freedom to become a multimillionaire playing a game.

    No country, or person is perfect, but undoubtedly the USA is the most desirable nation on earth, despite flaws. Asking Kap to respect our country and flag and what’s right in our country, with countless millions of good people all around us, and stand in unison is not asking too much. And one thing is for sure: Majority of NFL and fans love our country, and so do I.

    Thus, Kap would have been an unneeded detraction, until he grows up and starts appreciating the USA. What other country offers him the same opportunities?

    • art thiel

      One of the most significant group of responders was Veterans for Kap, military people who openly supported his right and desire to protest. They understood better than most that petitioning the government for redress, as spelled out in the Constitution, was a critical American right for which they were willing to sacrifice all. Of all the people who know how screwed up America can be at times,
      it’s soldiers, sailors, pilots and Marines on the front lines.

      Blind allegiance gets us nothing. Just as saying Kap did everything right in his protests is foolish. He garbled his message.

      We’re all learning, right? It’s why they call democracy an experiment.

      • JohnMS

        Good points made, Thiel. And I’m not surprised that soldiers, who epitomize sacrifice and standing for other’s rights would also proclaim Kap has the right to protest even the protectors of our freedoms.

        Yet, though the veterans and soldiers have Kap’s back, question is does he have the soldier’s backs?

        • LarryLurex70

          Does he have the soldiers’ backs? Meaning what, exactly? He should go out of his way to pacify those who willingly misinterpreted his protest as anti-military?

          • Malkavian Knight

            how about those soldiers who DIED for his right to protest??

            maybe he should think about that

          • LarryLurex70

            Again, your venom is misguided. Not to mention manufacturered, since, had some random woman not posted a photo of Kaepernick quietly sitting on the bench in protest during the anthem in preseason, none of you would’ve even known he was protesting in the first place. It was only after that photo went viral that he compromised and began to take a knee. And, it was only then that people like you began to knowingly and willfully misinterpret his protest in the first place, and react accordingly. Like it’s somehow his fault that you continue to choose to completely ignore his explanation for his protest, specifically as it relates to the military.

          • Malkavian Knight

            So when I reply, its venom but from you its not. Good to know that the double standard is still intact!
            You say we misinterpreted his protest, how do you know? Were you there or know him personally? No, then shut it about his intentions, you don’t know. So we have to go by what it appears and it appears to me he has the right to protest, but not the right for everybody to agree with him, in fact a lot do not! So don’t minimize my opinion over yours. You do not have a monopoly on freedom of speech or how I or others interpret Kaps actions. Really the over the top melodrama on your morals are sooo superior to others, please.

  • zaneduarte

    I used to condemn him for his position he took, but after hearing from others who experience injustice, I understand better why Kaep does what he does. I may not agree with his method, but I agree with his motive!

    • art thiel

      There you go, Zane. Kap offered some foolish gestures and words in defending himself, but he was honest to his beliefs regardless of the financial cost.

  • Jamo57

    Did anyone ask Michael which arena group he supports? If he’s with the SoDo group I’d nominate him for mayor of Seattle. Too bad I live in Sno County.

    I wish Michael continued health and success, many productive years with the with the Hawks, and the opportunity to remain an influential voice in the spotlight. And good on the Hawks to allow these personalities to shine. This is a unique franchise to be appreciated.

    • art thiel

      Carroll takes some real risks in letting young, suddenly rich and popular guys have some room. But getting Sherman back to a positive vibe showed some skill.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Great article. This and your previous article on Sherm, not to mention the only seeming unbiased reporting on the arena situation is why I keep coming back.

    It’s nice to read a report on a player that’s not the now standard ESPN style give ourselves something to talk about perpetual invented controversy making machine.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. ESPN does enjoy pinning the hyperbole meter to 11. Tebow, Lebron, Yankees-Red Sox, Manziel.

      • DJ

        In my opinion,ABC’s smut gathering news machine has infiltrated ESPN. Every one of their commentary shows has become just another flavor or the daily sports controversy – and unfortunately, it’s getting old, really fast.

        Thanks for what you guys do, Art

        • art thiel

          I wonder how many people outside of college frats think as you do. I keep hearing that annoyance from sports fans. Contrived controversies.

          • Tian Biao

            I think there might be a lot of us. it has to do with the business model: ESPN has fired most of their reporters, so it’s all just social media generated nothingness. as in: some guy makes a ‘controversial’ comment, and Lebron tweets back a rebuttal, and then the espn ‘reporter’ sums it up and adds his or her opinion. it’s tedious. so yes: Art! keep doing what you do, please . . .

          • SeaRaays

            Jim Rome? I am sorry to say sensationalism runs thick with that guy! Or it used to …

          • DJ

            As I watch my ESPN shows get closer in content to my Wife’s ABC morning shows and Entertainment Tonight, I get closer to losing that satellite dish. Between SPNW and Jim Rome’s radio show, I’m covered for honest, insightful and thought provoking sports commentary

          • LarryLurex70

            Jim Rome is still employed? I honestly had no idea. Well, that’s the problem with sports media right there. No integrity or shame. Rome should’ve been sacked and never offered another job after that stunt he pulled 2 decades ago with Jim Everett.

          • DJ

            Larry – You’re really missing out – Everett was a limited sample, and Rome doesn’t shy away from that history. He’s a stand-up dude, and I wouldn’t bring him up in comparison on this site unless he was. No nonsense, doesn’t dissect rumors, and seeks the facts. Different animal than Art, he’s a live interviewer, but there’s times I’ve used the same nickname as I use for Art, “The Voice of Reason”

          • LarryLurex70

            Manufactured Dissent seems to be the new norm with regards to the “debate show” format that is so prominent nowadays.

  • tor5

    How refreshing to hear a sports star so well articulate what’s important in life and how to be a man. And so right on about Russell Wilson. I chuckle sometimes at his cliches, but his character on and off the field is beyond reproach. And I have to give a nod to Kap as well. I still wish he would have picked a different form of protest, but the kneeling was a selfless act for a greater cause, for which he’s paid dearly. I’ve come to respect him more and more.

    • art thiel

      Good to hear you’re open to time and events changing your mind a bit. An increasingly rare virtue these days.

  • Williec

    “Balance my football life with my actual reality” says what I want to hear from a really fine athlete and human being. I bet there are a bunch more of these folks in other locker rooms who’ve not been given the support to develop a voice in this same way. We are fortunate to have this playing out right under our noses. Wouda thunk…the NFL and social relevance?
    But then, we’ve had Art T in our midst these many seasons to keep us open to the possibility haven’t we.

    • art thiel

      Thanks, Willie C. You’re right about the number of players in the locker room of the Seahawks and many other teams in all sports who strive for a life balance. It’s a hard thing to do when so much money is at stake for so few years.

  • Tyler D

    “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.”

    So would it be okay as white american to write a book about “Things That Make Black People Uncomfortable.”? Or is it only a one way street? Can we talk about the 70+% fatherless rate in inner cities after the “Great Society” programs were implemented when in the ugly era of Jim Crow laws it was below 20% and less than white households? Did he address the issue and racial purity test of Russell Wilson not being “black” enough that was issue two years ago? Yes. I went to city public schools and this social test does exist.

    Larry Elder talks about these topics about police brutality here, but again he doesn’t have the right “narrative”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piwaBO6U43U

    In my opinion, I generally think white people are uncomfortable to talk about such subjects because if they disagree or they don’t have the correct opinions, or don’t genuflect in collective white shame they can and have lost their jobs, been harassed, and socially demonized. This is why I think sports writers, especially of your demographic, won’t even broach, dig deeper, or push back on that subject because your career an livelihood would be over.

    Flip the script when minorities (FYI…about 12% of the world population of European descent source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population, so the term minority depends on the context) like Bennett say derogatory, generalized, and bigoted terms about “European” Americans they are lauded and celebrated as courageous.

    Is that somehow supposed to bring people together? He is popular culture now, he is the establishment, and has the power to influence many; whether you believe right or wrong depends on the person.

    Now, I believe Kap has a right to protest as much as Bennett has a right to express his opinions and folks who get angry at that fact I believe are wrong. What they can disagree with are their arguments, boycott if they want, or engage in conversation… at their own peril.

    • Paul Harmening

      You stole my header and 1st two lines. Kudos !

      Unfortunately, they are not PC.

      Know who invented the term ‘politically correct’ ?

      Hitler…Look it up

    • LarryLurex70

      I would suggest you familiarize yourself with Dave Zirin if you’re needing a break from sports writers who won’t get anywhere near the issues of the day.

    • art thiel

      Tyler, regarding the one-way street, it’s simple: It’s a power thing.

      Whites largely run the show in the U.S. African-Africans and other minorities largely do not. Regardless of race, those in power do what it takes to keep it that way, even if they are oblivious to some consequences for those out of power.

      That’s why Bennett’s book title works as a platform for those out of power.

      Things have never been a two-way street. That’s the point.

      • Tyler D

        Thanks Art for your response, but I respectfully disagree with this power + privilege narrative slapped on a whole group of people who feel just as powerless. I think if you talking about .1% that own most of the wealth, then yes I probably would agree. But, first you have to define what you mean by power or privilege. Otherwise they are just nebulous buzzwords that are weaponized to lay blame at the feet of good people who did nothing wrong.

        I also think if you watch the Larry Elder’s video it gives a good rebuttal to this and other such arguments.

        So what power, based on your definition, does a poor white person living in poverty? Does Oprah not have power to influence millions of people? Did Barack not have power? (I would argue he was up against hard odds, being as D.C. is a cess pool and you have to play to your donors tune.) How about billionaire doctor Dre? Athletes, musicians have power to influence and coerce public narrative and culture whether true or not and whether it’s a benefit to society as a whole.

        Politics is downstream from culture. Always has and always will be.

        Also, do you think the monied elite <.1% care about anybody not in the exclusive club including poor or middle class whites? In fact, the middle class is further and further disappearing and politicians love to pit the poor against the poor for political gain. The politics of Envy.

        Yes, you see many whites, depending on what you classify as "white", in politics based on demographic representation, but you also see other minority classes as well and it's growing as demographics change. Do you think when another ethnic of people are in power they will be more or less benevolent towards other groups or their own? Will it not change the fundamental way the country is governed?

        Bennett's platform is exclusive only to one group and one group only. He has every right to advocate for African Americans as an American, but if the right is not given equally to all other ethnic groups than it's hypocrisy. Also, if they don't have a right to defend themselves against these statements or accusations without physical or social retribution then it becomes a form of oppression of thought and speech.

        Again, there is no dialogue if it's a one way street. It's a dictation and condemnation of people you have no idea of their individual circumstances other then the color of their skin. Demonizing a particular group of people for the sins of others and attributing blanket characteristics to dehumanize them and shut them up has never worked no matter which direction the weaponizing of language is pointed.

        I just don't see how this book is going to do anything but further divide people and cause more harm than good.

        • art thiel

          Obviously, a lot of white people are just as victimized as minorities when it comes to a share of power and equal treatment. I assumed that went without saying.

          But beyond the one percenters, there are many middle-class white people managing/working in businesses and government agencies that are unaware of subtle forms of discrimination and hurtful words and deeds. They aren’t racists; often just don’t know. My impression in talking with Bennett is that his point is about increasing awareness, even if some find it difficult or uncomfortable.

          But since neither you nor I have seen the book, it’s a little early to judge beyond the provocative title. I’m guessing the book will be exactly the two-way street you seek, unless you don’t want to be made uncomfortable.

          • Tyler D

            Agreed. Nobody has seen this book and it will be interesting to see what it will contain. And I’ve never shy’d away from being uncomfortable, but I can be disagreeable if I believe the arguments and points need to be challenged. I also think their is plenty of awareness in the media, film, and politics 24/7 unless the people you’re talking about live under a rock.

            And your point about subtle forms of discrimination , hurtful words, and deeds is not carte blanche with one race or religion of people. I’ve read and seen plenty of blatant discrimination, hurtful words, and deeds from minorities against middle class whites. Some of it blatantly out in the open with no push back at all.

            The policing of speech is a dangerous and slippery slope. Having folks walk on egg shells not knowing what someone deems offensive and what is not offensive or hurtful is only going to make people further avoid conversing with each other.

            There is no law against being a jerk or saying hurtful words, although I think it’s crappy way to be. You’re not going to get through life without someone saying something that might hurt your feelings or being mean.

            It’s rough out there. As a long time and respected sports reporter I know you’ve been through cyclone of criticisms and epitaphs reading your columns all these years. You must have raw hide skin from these battles, but it’s part and parcel of the business. The George Karl era specifically must of been fun. :)

          • art thiel

            George was a lot of fun. He ran a madhouse.

            Speaking of past battles, I wrote a column saying former Reds owner Marge Schott should not have been forced to sell because she’s a bigot. She should be kept right where she was, where all could see her, not marginalized. Many readers never understood that light is the best weapon against racism.

          • Tyler D

            Yeah. I sort of remember that drama with Schott (details are fuzzy now in my older age) and I see what you’re saying about keeping her around to shine a light on her bigotry. However, I think keeping her as the owner would have caused so much negativity and turmoil in the Cinci community, the clubhouse and with the past greats (Big Red Machine) that the price was too much to pay to keep her around. I would be interested to see if there was any commentary from Joe Morgan and Griffey Sr. at the time this went down. I’m sure there’s something on the inter-webs.

            Also, the PR hit for the MLB had they not forced her to sell. I know if that happened today all hell would have broken loose . I keep thinking of the Clippers situation with Donald Sterling as well. I shake my head at what goes through these owners heads in a league where 70%+ of your employees that get butts in the seats are black athletes.

      • JohnMS

        In NFL, what percentage of players are black? What percentage are white? What percentage are Asian?

  • LarryLurex70

    Sounds like Mike’s never heard of Ray Lewis. Unless he’s referring to today’s NFL rather than its entire existence with regard to defense-dominated teams and the Lombardi trophy.