Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett plans to file a civil rights lawsuit over what he said was a violation of his constitutional rights when he was stopped by Las Vegas police as he left the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight on Aug. 26.
Bennett, in a letter addressed “Dear World” and posted on Twitter on Wednesday morning, explained that he was the victim of racial profiling that occurred as he was heading back to his hotel. When “several hundred people heard what sounded like gun shots,” they fled and Bennett writes that “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,” Bennett wrote. “As I laid on the ground, complying with his commands not to move, he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would ‘blow my [expletive] 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 use of what Bennett says was excessive 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 color 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?”
Bennett said he was placed in a police car “until they apparently realized 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.”
Shortly after Bennett’s post, TMZ shared video (it can be seen here; it contains profanity) of the incident, showing Bennett lying on the ground as he was being handcuffed by an officer. He can be heard saying, “I wasn’t doing nothing, man! I was here with my friends! They told us to get out. Everybody ran.”
Asked for comment on the matter, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department tweeted that the Bennett “case is under investigation. Reserve judgment. We will address this publicly today.”
Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, called on Las Vegas police to release video of the incident, and a ColorofChange.org petition urges the Las Vegas Police Department to identify the officers and release body camera footage. Bennett wrote that he has hired Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris to investigate and explore his legal options. In the interim, he intends to continue to protest inequality and police brutality by not standing during the playing of the national anthem, a gesture started by Colin Kaepernick. The Seahawks’ next game is their season opener Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, which will be Fox’s featured game during the late afternoon slate.
“The fact is unequivocally, without question why before every game, I sit during the national anthem,” he wrote, “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 a [n-word], you will be treated that way.”
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