“At this point, I think if you’re being silent, you’re making a choice and taking a side.” Shit. That will make ANYONE feel uncomfortable. Which is exactly Bennett’s goal and he achieves it here.
Michael Bennett plays in the NFL, along with his brother Marcellus (who even I’ve heard of and I know nothing about football). He’s a Super Bowl champion and has won awards for his playing. He’s also incredibly intelligent and passionate, and those traits, so much more than anything that might make him impressive on the field.
“By not standing, I wanted to honor the founding principles of this country—the freedom of self-expression, liberty, and the equal opportunity to pursue happiness—and challenge us to try to reach those goals.”
Bennett talks about his own childhood, and upbringing, and then he talks about whole communities of children — their experiences, how they relate to sports heroes, and how sports may feel like the only way out. I found it very interesting the way he spoke about sports, and how there may be an illusion of equality among athletes on the field, but it’s false. “It gives the whole game away that college football is so popular in the SEC, where the legacy of Jim Crow and segregation is so powerful, and now they worship Black football players who make no money and are out there providing entertainment.” When you think about black men playing for NFL teams owned by exclusively white men — that will definitely make you feel uncomfortable.
Bennett doesn’t just have criticism. He has ideas. He has hope for change. One more quote — this concerning his birth mother, but the attitude behind it runs through the whole book: “If I can’t forgive birth mother, how can I be out in the world arguing for love, justice, and community? How can I hold her hostage away from my heart for something she did when she was so young? My instincts are to stay angry, but my heart says that anger is the road to ruin.”