On Thursday, there was a series of panel discussions about athletes and activism that naturally turned to talk about players who have protested during the national anthem in recent years.
Martellus Bennett had plenty to say about this topic.
The former NFL tight end, who was one of many to protest in 2017, said the protests would be met with a completely different tone if a prominent white quarterback would stand alongside them instead of being quiet. The 10-year NFL vet had this to say at the “Athletes + Activism” forum hosted by The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill:
“If Peyton Manning joined the conversation, the conversation in the NFL would change,” Bennett said. “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.”
Bennett explained that White Americans might be more willing to educate themselves on the police brutality and workplace inequality that plague some communities if those QB’s took a knee.
“If they were to take a knee with Colin Kaepernick, that conversation would totally change,” Bennett said. “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.’”
Bennett acknowledged that other White players in the league have joined the conversation, giving credit to former teammate Chris Long, but stated that it needs to be a quarterback because they have the real power.
“Chris Long (joined) the conversation, but he’s a defensive end,” Bennett said. “I love Chris Long. Chris Long is my boy. Shoutout to Chris. But it’s not the position.”