Pro Bowler Michael Bennett said Las Vegas police officers held him at gunpoint and used excessive force on him “for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time” following the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor fight last month.
“On Saturday, August 26, 2017 I was in Las Vegas to attend the Mayweather-McGregor fight on my day off. After the fight while heading back to my hotel several hundred people heard what sounded like gun shots. Like many of the people in the area I ran away from the sound, looking for safety. Las Vegas police officers singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“A police officer ordered me to get on the ground. As I laid on the ground, complying with his commands to not move, he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would ‘blow my … head off.’ Terrified and confused by what was taking place, a second Officer came over and forcefully jammed his knee into my back making it difficult for me to breathe. They then cinched the handcuffs on my wrists so tight that my fingers went numb.
“The Officers’ excessive use of force was unbearable. 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?
“I kept asking the Officers ‘What did I do?’ and reminding them that I had rights they were duty bound to respect. The Officers ignored my pleas and instead told me to shut up and then took me to the back of a nearby police car where I sat for what felt like an eternity until they apparently realized I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man but Michael Bennett a famous professional football player. After confirming my identity, I was ultimately released without any legitimate justification for the Officers’ abusive conduct.
“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 …, you will be treated that way.
“The system failed me. I can only imagine what Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Charleena Lyles felt.
“I have retained Oakland Civil Rights Attorney John Burris to investigate and explore all my legal options including filing a civil rights lawsuit for the violation of my constitutional rights.”
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Kevin McMahill responded to Bennett’s allegations during a news conference Wednesday.
“Many of the folks today have called this an incident of bias-based policing, police officers focusing solely on the race of an individual that they’re going to stop,” McMahill said. “I can tell you as I stand here today, I see no evidence of that. I see no evidence that race played any role in this incident.”
McMahill said the officers were responding to reports of a possible active shooter in a casino around 1:30 a.m. after the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match. Bennett was crouched behind a gaming machine and then started running, McMahill said the officers reported.
The officer who apprehended Bennett did not have his body camera turned on — and it is unclear why, McMahill said — but 126 videos from other officers will be reviewed. McMahill also asked for any cellphone videos of the incident to be turned in to police.
If the investigation reveals “any policies or training was violated, those officers will be held accountable,” McMahill said.
Last month, Bennett told reporters he plans sit during the national anthem before Seahawks game this season. Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started a movement by refusing to stand for the anthem last season, tweeted his support of Bennett soon after the Seattle player’s letter became public on Tuesday.
“This violation that happened against my Brother Michael Bennett is disgusting and unjust,” Kaepernick tweeted. “I stand with Michael and I stand with the people.”
Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett sent a heartfelt message to his older brother on Instagram.
“I’m sad that you have to share this type of experience with the world but at the same time I’m happy that it happened to you and you lived to talk about it because we all know you’re going to talk about it. Lol,” he wrote. “The conversation is growing and I’m glad your voice is one of the ones being heard. You are as real as they come, well at least how they used to come. I encourage you to Continue telling your story and the stories of those that came before.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll tweeted Wednesday:
“What happened with Michael is a classic illustration of the reality of inequality demonstrated daily. May this incident inspire all of us to respond with compassion when inequalities are brought to light, and allow us to have the courage to stand for change.”
Sept. 7, 7:25 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Kevin McMahill and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
This article was originally published at 10:50 a.m. Sept. 6.