Michael Bennett is a Pro Bowl defensive lineman who plays for the Seattle Seahawks. He recently did an interview with Democracy Now where he explained why he turned down an offer to visit Israel stating the similarities between the plight of the Palestinians and the plight of Black people in America as one of the reasons.
The trip has been sponsored by the Israeli government and it's not just about going to different tourist locations, it would turn NFL players into spokesmen and ambassadors of the government of Israel which includes all of the activity said government is involved in. This includes the state-sanctioned human rights abuses of the Palestinian people that America has historically ignored.
Bennett said specifically that he did not want to be an ambassador for something he did not agree with, and he should be commended for that. Athletes get taught very early on not to be controversial or too outspoken because it can mess with the potential money that's out there to be made. So we see capitalism being used as a tool to silence dissent. Where money is dangled above the heads of athletes as a golden carrot to limit the impact they can have on society.
It's funny because Bennett mentions Muhammad Ali as one of his inspirations. I last wrote about Ali after his passing in the article, 'Pro-Black is Not Anti-White: The Fear of Melanoid Empowerment' which goes into why Ali was such a threat in his prime. People like Ali and Jim Brown have caused sports teams to be a lot more proactive in making it clear to athletes how much they're against them using their publicity to get political.
One need only look at the vitriolic reaction to Colin Kaepernick's taking of a knee during the singing of the national anthem to see that there is a risk that people like Michael Bennett take when they work for these rich, white, wealthy and conservative billionaires who own these sports teams.
Like clockwork however, the bogus claims of anti-Semitism for simply being critical of the Israeli government (not individual Israeli people) were right on time and predictable as always. The anti-Semitic smear is always used fraudulently against people who call out the Israeli government for their actions against the Palestinian people. They'd rather we ignore that there is a borderline genocide occurring because, much like America, the government of Israel doesn't like getting called out for its barbaric ways. In the same way Americans in America get butt hurt when black and brown people talk about state-sanctioned violence against vulnerable communities from Ferguson and Baltimore to Standing Rock.
So I want to be one of the ones commending Michael Bennett for doing the right thing and not wanting to be used as a political prop by the Israeli government. Too many athletes play that go-along-to-get-along game and allow themselves to fall into the capitalist trap of doing anything for money. Even if that means harming your own integrity, at least you made a buck right! No, wrong. Hopefully Colin Kaepernick's trend lasts because I like what I'm seeing.