UPDATE: The union for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has issued a letter to the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, requesting an investigation into Michael Bennett after his open letter went viral on Wednesday.
The union's letter claims that Bennett's brutality allegations are false and offers their account of what occurred when the professional athlete was detained.
According to the letter, when officers entered the casino where the sound of gunshots was believed to have been heard, Bennett was hiding behind a slot machine and proceeded to run out of the building, leap over a 4-foot wall, and hide from the responding officers.
These "unusual and suspicious actions" allegedly exhibited by Bennett are what supposedly led to his detainment.
The letter also notes, ironically, that both of the officers involved were minorities.
This is a predictable response from law enforcement — of course the officers are going to deny mistreating Bennett in order to save face. However, the letter doesn't explicitly address the alleged threat to blow Bennett's head off or the knee that was forcefully jammed into his back.
The letter only clarifies the events leading up to Bennett's arrest, but not the officers' conduct once he was in their custody.
Also, minority law enforcement officials are not exempt from engaging in brutality or misconduct, thus sliding that detail in to suggest that the Las Vegas cops' actions were not racially-motivated is a moot point.
Nevertheless, it seems that Bennett has opened up a can of worms, so to speak, by exposing these officers, and they are not backing down without a fight.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has accused Las Vegas police officers of harassing him and threatening to blow his “f***ing head off.”
Equality. pic.twitter.com/NQ4pJt94AZ— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) September 6, 2017
After hearing what he thought were gunshots while leaving the fight, 31-year-old Bennett began to run to safety. During this chaos, a police officer allegedly pulled out his gun and commanded Bennett to get on the ground. A second officer jammed his knee into Bennett's back before handcuffing him and placing him in the back of a squad car.
“The Officers’ excessive use of force was unbearable,” Bennett wrote. “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 — who has previously backed fellow football player Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem demonstration — used his experience as an example of why protesting police brutality is important.
“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 a 'N—–,' you will be treated that way,” he wrote.
While Las Vegas police have not commented on Bennett’s allegations, officers did reportedly investigate gunshots on the night of the fight, but they found no evidence of shots fired.
Investigators believe the sounds were actually the result of large statues falling down and breaking during a scuffle that was sparked by a man tossing $100 bills out onto the Vegas strip.
This incident alone exemplifies why black athletes can't just keep quiet and play their sport. These men may have fame and more money than Michael Brown, or Eric Garner, or Philando Castile had, but clearly that doesn't make them exempt from the same brutality that claimed the lives of those regular citizens.
When black professional athletes are out of uniform, they have nothing that visibly separates them from any other man, which makes them targets of this type of mistreatment by law enforcement that we see day in and day out.
Bennett's letter is a wake-up call to people who fail to understand why black athletes and black celebrities, in general, are so invested in this movement. Racism affects people of color from all walks of life.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Reuters, USA Today Sports