Michael Bennett openly campaigned for his Seahawks to sign Colin Kaepernick, and he expressed disappointment when Seattle instead signed Austin Davis to compete for a backup position.
To Bennett, the fact that the former 49ers quarterback is still a free agent makes for an easy answer to this question: Is Kaepernick being blackballed?
“Of course he’s being blackballed,” Bennett said this week on a New York radio station. “Nobody likes race and politics in sports. I think that’s one of those things that nobody wants to talk about, and for him to bring race and politics in sports, I think it struck a lot of people the wrong way.
“You watch the people that really watch football, it’s middle America, and the people that buy tickets to the game aren’t really African-American people,” Bennett added, “and for him to bring that into that crowd was one thing that people felt like shouldn’t have been there.”
Kaepernick sparked immense criticism last year, including from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, for kneeling during pregame renditions of the national anthem. He said he was doing it to protest racial injustice in America, and not out of any antipathy to the flag itself or the nation’s armed forces. He has since indicated that he won’t continue those protests this season, but many believe that NFL owners are staying away from him out of fears of the backlash they might receive from some fans.
To Bennett, the ongoing inability of Kaepernick to find work exposes the league’s racial divide, with mostly black players viewing the quarterback sympathetically and mostly white fans feeling great resentment toward him.
Bennett continued to discuss that theme Wednesday during a news conference at the Seahawks’ minicamp in Renton, Wash., saying (via ESPN), “I think the league is built on middle America, and most of the middle of America is predominantly a white crowd.
“I think race is not something that the NFL wants to be a part of or get behind. But the league is predominantly African-American, so the issue that he’s dealing with is what we’re all dealing with.”
Bennett made those comments while wearing a hat and shirt bearing the message, “I Know My Rights,” which came from Kaepernick’s empowerment initiative for at-risk youth.
The two players met up this week in New York, where Kaepernick’s girlfriend works at another radio station, and where he is reportedly training while waiting for another chance in the NFL.
“Obviously, there’s the elephant in the room why Kaepernick isn’t signed, and most people know why,” Bennett said at the news conference. “I’ve said this several times, and I’m not afraid to say it: I think race and politics in sports is something people don’t want to hear about, nor do people want to be a part of.”
In May, Bennett claimed that Seattle would be “a perfect place” for a social activist such as Kaepernick. “You have an owner (Paul Allen) who spends and gives back to the homeless,” he said. “You’ve got players on your team that give back in the community. You’ve got Russell Wilson, who shows that our team is built around community.”
However, after meeting with Kaepernick — becoming the only NFL team to take a public interest in him — the Seahawks passed, subsequently signing another quarterback with a distinctly inferior résumé.