Martellus Bennett heard loud and clear amid Super Bowl Opening Night silence
HOUSTON — The Super Bowl’s media circus – heck, the whole week – is not meant for introspection or thoughtful answers on anything. That is, unless you have a burning desire to know which of the New England Patriots has the best beard or what Tom Brady smells like.
Seriously. This is what passes for news at Super Bowl Opening Night. Which is why Martellus Bennett was so refreshing.
While Brady and just about everyone else ducked questions about President Trump and the Divided States of America, Bennett was open about his politics and why he feels an obligation to speak out.
“When you have a chance to change the world, you change the world,” the Patriots tight end said. “It’s not like, 'Here’s my chance to change the world, I’m going to pass that up.' If I have a chance to change the world, I’m going to do everything I can to change the world.”
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There are some who say an athlete’s opinions on politics or social issues are irrelevant, nobody’s business but their own. And, to a degree, that is true. But for many people they are role models, and that platform gives their words and thoughts added weight.
Some have chosen to embrace it. NBA players and coaches, for example, have repeatedly spoken out against discrimination and prejudice, be it cases of police brutality or Trump’s ban on refugees. Others want no part of it.
“I’m not talking politics at all,” Brady said when asked a third question about Trump, whose friendship with the quarterback has been a recurring topic the past couple of months.
“Why? Because I just want to focus on the positive aspect of this game and my teammates,” Brady said. “(I’d prefer to) not let anything really take away from that.”
But Bennett took a different tack. Early Monday, he sent out a series of tweets that, while not specifically mentioning Trump or the immigration ban, were clearly directed at them.
“America was built on inclusiveness not exclusiveness,” read one. “Be the change you wish to see in the world. If you want a world full of hate be hateful. If you want a world full of love be loving,” read another.
“If we plant seeds of awesomeness and love that’s what we will grow. If we plant seeds of ignorance and hate that’s what we will grow,” read a third.
Asked about the tweets on Monday night, Bennett didn’t shy away from the subject. Or his feelings on Trump; if the Patriots win the Super Bowl, Bennett doubts he’d go to the White House because, “I don’t support the guy that’s in the house.”
He had made the decision to enter the conversation and, in doing so, knew it would generate even more. That’s the point of discourse – and the point too often missed.
Whether Brady is friends with Trump or voted for him really doesn’t matter. But he joined the fray by putting a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker when he knew reporters would see it, and it’s disingenuous to then duck the follow-up questions. The same would have been true had LeBron James tried to say he wasn’t going to talk politics after endorsing Hillary Clinton.
Athletes have platforms, and using them when it's convenient or to their liking is self-defeating.
“Other players are worried about their personal brands,” Bennett said. “I feel like a lot of players – in certain situations they have chances to really impact the community with things they say, and so many people are looking to them for encouragement and examples and for a chance to promote change. But for a lot of guy it comes down to the dollars. What this brand or this company may say, or how I’m going to look if I speak out.
“A lot of guys just aren’t educated enough to do it, educated enough on the subject,” he added. “It varies, but I think the biggest thing is stepping on that plank. They feel like they’re going to get crucified if they do speak up on different matters.”
Amidst all the silence, Bennett's words were heard loud and clear.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
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