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Michael Bennett has been an avid supporter of Colin Kaepernick, and has been steadfast in his avocation of criminal justice reform.

In 2018 Bennett wrote a book called Things That Make White People Uncomfortable. The book talks about racism, police violence, protest, and what it’s like being a Black athlete. Following the death of George Floyd, the topic has exploded onto the scene once again. Bennett sat down with GQ to discuss everything going on now, and rather some of his optimism from his book reigns true now.

When Bennett was asked about his opinion on what’s been happening over the last three weeks, he expresses a feeling of joy that people are finally waking up, but he says he can’t help but wonder how many lives would have been saved if people would have listened when Kaepernick was trying to tell them back in 2016 what was happening.

Bennett, who is a free agent, says he still has desires to play football and more specifically in the NFL. There has been much conversation about players playing in a league were they believe oppressors are supported. Bennett clarifies that being in the NFL does not define him, this is just a job and one he happens to be very good at. Making this connection can be very difficult for fans, but Bennett explains why it is necessary.

“I think it’s hard for the fans to connect to a player’s Blackness. Once you start connecting to a player’s Blackness, you’re connecting to his pain and what he’s experienced. The America that’s being portrayed, it’s been pushed upon him since his birth on this planet, and stories of the young Black, African American men who have been killed for simply whistling, like Emmett Till,” Bennett explains. “Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, these people who have lost their life, it’s hard for a fan to connect to that. Because if they have to connect to that, that’s them acknowledging their privilege, that their kid lives a privileged life, that their kid lives a different way and they live in a different America; their schools are better”

Having Black people be a part of the system is integral in making sure those very systems are not oppressing Black people, but there’s also a systemic side to it that fans of the sports must understand needs to be addressed as well. Fans have to understand and embrace players for who they are completely, not just for the fact that they are very good for their favorite team.

“I think it’s important to have players in the system who are understanding the complexities of society, who can constantly push organizations and the league into the direction of positivity, and the direction of really making a true change and having impact,” said Bennett to GQ.

Bennett continues to address a lot of the civil unrest that is currently happening in our country. You can check out a full transcript of the interview over at GQ.

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