This article first ran on SportingNews.com on September 7, 2017, and can be found here.
In the early morning hours after the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas last month, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said that he was racially profiled by Las Vegas police.
Per a statement Bennett posted on his Twitter account, he was apprehended after hearing what sounded like gunshots in a crowded area near a casino and had officers pointing guns at him “for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Later that day Bennett reached out to teammates for support, starting with fellow defensive back Richard Sherman and wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
Baldwin, who said Thursday that he and Sherman have been in similar situations with police before, sat down with Bennett and tried to calmly break down the situation and think the whole thing through.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Let’s think this through,’” Baldwin said. “‘Let’s not allow our first order of thought, which is based on emotion, to cloud our better judgement.’ Not to say that (Bennett) was doing anything or saying anything wrong. I just wanted to make sure that his message was going to get clearly across. We’ve seen before how the message can get lost in translation. We wanted to make sure that the essential part of his message, what actually happened, the details of actually what happened, and that there wasn’t other stories being created. That was very important to us.”
That is why, Baldwin said, it took so long for the story to go public. They wanted to control the situation and the storyline, making sure that the details of what happened to Bennett that night in Las Vegas to be spun out of control.
Even though that was a tough conversation to have, Baldwin said it was necessary. Seeing how Bennett has handled the situation, he said, has been impressive.
“Honestly it was just a very difficult conversation, because obviously we support Michael and love him to death, not only as a teammate, but as a human being and what he stands for as a man, but there’s a lot of emotion that goes into it,” Baldwin said. “For him to come out of it the way that he has, I’m extremely proud of him because, again, being empathetic and putting myself in those shoes, when I was in that situation, the first thing I wanted to do was raise hell. Somebody has got to pay for this.
“I think that yes, there is a call to action, and you want people to be responsible for their actions. However I think Michael Is doing it in a very mature manner. He’s putting all his information together. We support him in that.”
Following Bennett’s statement on Twitter, many people have taken different sides on the matter. Video has been released of the incident, and opinions have been formed.
On Thursday, the Las Vegas Police Union officially asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to conduct an investigation into the incident with Bennett, denying any wrongdoing or racial profiling committed by its officers.
Baldwin said he understands that many sides will be taken. That happens with any issue. Instead, he just wants people to be emphatic.
“I’m not going to say whose wrong and whose right,” Baldwin said. “Everybody has their opinion on it. Everybody has their perspective on that. All I know is that a man felt like his life was threatened, that his life was in danger. If you’ve ever been in that situation, it doesn’t matter whose right or whose wrong, that’s a traumatizing situation to be in. Especially when you have family, you have kids, it changes the course of your life forever.”
The Seahawks kick off their season on Sunday against Green Bay, in what may be a tough season opener for Seattle. Having this issue come to light just days before the game has caused a distraction from the game.
However, Baldwin said that isn’t unusual. Every player in the league is dealing with issues outside of football. When they take the field on Sunday, he said, there will be a switch. They have a job to do, after all.
“We’re human beings,” Baldwin said. “A lot of us have families, have issues going on outside of football that interfere with our focus, but we still have a job to do. We have to come into this locker room, we still have to come to this field on game day and perform at a high level because the guys next to you are needing you to do so. We’ve had a lot of practice at it.”