Prominent NFL star Michael Bennett has detailed a shocking incident of police brutality he suffered at the hands of Las Vegas police officials, that’s once again calling into question the violent, aggressive, and often fatal treatment of innocent black Americans by US police officers.
Bennett, a veteran defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, was in Vegas attending the Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather fight on August 26th. In the early hours of the morning after the fight, and as Bennett was reportedly walking back to his hotel, a large crowd of people heard what was thought to be gunshots, causing panic. In attempting to flee the area, Las Vegas police detained Bennett and handcuffed him, placing him in a squad car. This, despite the fact that the report of gunshots later turned out to be unfounded.
Bennett detailed his harrowing experience, in which he claims a Vegas cop threatened to “blow [his] fucking head off,” in a post on Twitter earlier this morning that has since caused a storm of outrage.
Equality. pic.twitter.com/NQ4pJt94AZ— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) September 6, 2017
On Saturday August 26, 2017 I was in Las Vegas to attend the Mayweather-McGregor fight on my day off. After the fight while heading back to my hotel several hundred people heard what sounded like gun shots. Like many of the people in the area I ran away from the sound, looking for safety. Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A police officer ordered me to get on the ground. As I laid on the ground, complying with his commands to not move, he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would “blow my fucking head off.” Terrified and confused by what was taking place, a second officer came over and forcefully jammed his knee into my back making it difficult for me to breathe. They then cinched the handcuffs on my wrists so tight that my fingers went numb.
The officers’ excessive use of force was unbearable. I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was “I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin colour is somehow a threat.” My life flashed before my eyes as I thought of my girls. Would I ever play with them again? Or watch them have kids? Or be able to kiss my wife again and tell her I love her?
I kept asking the Officers “What did I do?” and reminding them that I had rights they were duty bound to respect. The Officers ignored my pleas and instead told me to shut up and then took me to the back of a nearby police car where I sat for what felt like an eternity until they apparently realised I was not a thug, common criminal, or ordinary black man, but Michael Bennett, a famous professional football player. After confirming my identity, I was ultimately released without any legitimate justification for the Officers’ abusive conduct.
I have always held a strong conviction that protesting or standing up for justice is just simply the right thing to do. This fact is unequivocally, without question why before every game, I sit during the national anthem – because equality doesn’t live in this country and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have, or how much you give, when you are seen as “Nigger,” you will be treated that way.
The system failed me. I can only imagine what Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Charleena Lyles felt.
I have retained Oakland Civil Rights Attorney John Burris to investigate and explore all my legal options including filing a civil rights lawsuit for the violation of my constitutional rights.
TMZ Sports obtained a short clip of footage showing Vegas police aggressively detaining Bennett with guns drawn.
LVMPD undersheriff Kevin McMahill was in full damage control mode when confronting media, asserting that Bennett’s detainment had nothing to do with race, and offered the excuse that officers targeted him because he was running after spotting the cops.
I can tell you as I stand here today, I see no evidence of that. I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident.
As they moved toward the nightclub, an individual later identified as Bennett was seen crouched down behind a gaming machine as the officers approached. Once Bennett was in the officer’s view, he quickly ran out the south doors, jumped over a wall onto Flamingo Road East of Las Vegas Boulevard into traffic.
Due to Bennett’s actions, and the information the officer’s had at the time, they believed that Bennett may have been involved in the shooting and they gave chase. Bennett was placed in handcuffs and detained while officers determined whether or not he was involved in the incident.
McMahill confirmed the LVMPD was investigating Bennett’s claim that an officer threatened to kill him with his gun raised.
Bennett’s story has once again raised the issue of systemic racism and racial profiling present within American law enforcement, and has been labelled – among other things – as an “American outrage.”
Bennett has stated an intent to sit during the US national anthem this NFL season; a protest move that infamously made quarterback Colin Kaepernick a pariah amongst “traditional” NFL circles.
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Image: Getty Images / Otto Gruele Jr