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Michael Bennett: NFL stars must step up, promote social change

RENTON, Wash. -- Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett is calling on NFL players to follow the lead of some of their NBA and WNBA counterparts in using their influence to promote social change.

Bennett, who reported to training camp Saturday despite ongoing frustration with his contract status, put on a Black Lives Matter shirt before addressing the media.

"The women and WNBA have really stood up for what they want, and I think that it's time for the players in the NFL," said Bennett, referencing the WNBA players who recently wore black warm-up shirts following several shootings by and against police officers throughout the country.

"Our great players are sitting back just taking the dollars, whether it's Cam Newton, all these guys. They're not really on the forefront of trying to change what's going on."

Michael Bennett, Seahawks DE

"But a lot of things in the NFL are so broken. You don't see a lot of great players talking about things socially, whether it's Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, all of these guys, they're white. They don't have to deal with the things that we deal with as black players, so it's not as many.

"In the NBA, everybody is standing up for it, so the greatest players are in the forefront of movement. Here in the NFL, the greatest players aren't in the forefront of the movement. Whether it's the CBA, whether it's things going on with trying to change the way -- concussions. The greatest players aren't involved like LeBron James, Chris Paul and all these guys (in the NBA). Our great players are sitting back just taking the dollars, whether it's Cam Newton, all these guys. They're not really on the forefront of trying to change what's going on."

James, Paul and fellow NBA stars Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade opened the ESPYS earlier this month by calling on athletes to promote social change.

Bennett followed suit Saturday.

"Eventually we'll have to get together as a whole sports community because at the end of the day, athletes have a brand and we control what is sold in America," he said. "Whatever is sold, usually we're the conduits to whatever it is. So whether it's shoes, clothes, whatever, a drink, soda, food, athletes hold the key to what people want.

"So as athletes, we need to start controlling that influence and keep it positive and not always about dollar to dollar. Finding a way to make something sustainable so when we're in the community, make a sustainable event, make a sustainable thing in the community, not so much about money. That's the whole thing I had about the thing with Stephen Curry. It was not about the money aspect. It was about creating something for kids where they can learn and want to give back."

Bennett critiqued Curry, the Golden State Warriors' star, earlier this month for charging $2,250 per participant for a four-day basketball camp in Hawaii.

Bennett, 30, is entering his fourth season with the Seahawks. He previously spent four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.