(NEW YORK) — NFL star Michael Bennett has spoken out about his encounter with police that left him “terrified,” and how later explaining what happened to his 10-year-old daughter brought her to tears.
“I’m just thinking in my head, there’s, like, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, all these people — these people that have been through this,” Bennett said in an interview with ABC News’ Byron Pitts, describing how, during his now-viral encounter with law enforcement, he recalled previous incidents of police brutality that ended in death.
“I’m terrified,” he added.
Bennett told ABC News that he was at a casino in Las Vegas on Aug. 27 when he heard people panicking and saying they heard gunfire in the vicinity. Bennett described the scene as “chaos,” saying he ran to the door and leapt over a ledge when he saw police officers, who he said then accosted him with force and singled him out based on the color of his skin.
Bennett said he thought about his family in those moments.
“I was thinking about my kids, was, like, ‘I need to get home, I need to make sure I’m back with my wife … I don’t want to leave her alone with these three girls.’ “
The Las Vegas Police Department denied claims of racial profiling in a news conference, but said Bennett was seen running and acting suspiciously. The police department declined to comment further to ABC News.
Video of the incident, obtained by TMZ Sports, shows Bennett on the ground with an officer handcuffing him and yelling at him. Police body cam footage of the incident that was released shows him on the ground briefly.
Bennett on explaining ‘racial profiling’ to his daughter
The Seattle Seahawks’ defensive end also described how difficult it was for him to explain what happened to his young daughter.
“It was an emotional thing for me to sit there and have to sit her down and explain to her about stereotypes, and racially profiling and what it means to be … a black man in America, and what it means for her to be a young black woman as she grows up in this country,” Bennett said.
Bennett said the “hardest part” of the conversation was telling his daughter that, despite everything, he still believes she has the power to enact change.
“You know, you got the power to change society,” Bennett said he told her. “You got the power to be whatever you want. And don’t let what happened to me change your goals, or what you want be.”
Bennett said that his daughter cried when he explained the incident.
“She cried because she’d seen me emotional,” he said.
Bennett added that his daughter’s friends come from many different races and backgrounds, saying, “I have to tell her as an adult, ‘You’re not going to be able to see the world like that,’ and I just think that’s unfair to have to do that for her.”
Says the experience ‘changed’ him
The football star added that the experience “changed me, spiritually,” and that ever since he has decided to never “take anything for granted.”
“Every time I see my wife, I try to kiss her like it’s the first time we ever met,” Bennett said. “Every time I play with my daughter I try to hold ’em like they were just born.”
Bennett also opened up about his decision to remain seated when the national anthem plays at football games, as a form of protest, responding to critics who say his decision is un-American.
“I think it’s un-American what happened to me, having guns drawn on me. I say it’s un-American what happened to Eric Garner. It’s un-American, what happened to Trayvon Martin. It’s un-American that there’s … no equality for people.”
“What I’m doing is … it’s the most American thing that you could do, is fight for equality for everybody, and have a unity for the country,” Bennett added.
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