Published: Wednesday, September 06, 2017 @ 6:15 PM
Updated: Wednesday, September 06, 2017 @ 7:12 PM
— UPDATE Sept. 6 7:12 PM: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement on Michael Bennett’s letter about Las Vegas police.
According to the statement, the Las Vegas police will respond to the letter later Wednesday evening.
“Our foremost concern is the welfare of Michael and his family...,” the statement said. “We will support Micahel and all NFL players in promoting mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they loyally serve and fair and equal treatment under the law.”
In an open letter posted on Twitter, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett says Las Vegas police ordered him to the ground at gunpoint, put a gun near his head and threatened to shoot him after hearing gunshots were fired nearby.
Bennett detailed the incident that was captured in a brief video posted by TMZ Sports on Aug. 26 when he was in Las Vegas to watch the Mayweather-McGregor fight.
Bennett said after the match, while he was heading back to the hotel that night, people heard gunshots fired and he, like others, tried to flee.
According to Bennett's statement, police ordered him to the ground at gunpoint, jammed a knee into his back and handcuffed him so tightly that his fingers went numb.
The video, which is reportedly shot outside of Drai’s Nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip, shows Bennett asking why he was being detained.
“I wasn’t doing nothing, man,” Bennett is heard saying in the video. “They told us to get out and everybody ran.”
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, parts of Drai’s Nightclub were evacuated early Sunday for shooting reports that turned out to be false. The police department found that large statues were knocked down onto the tile floor during a fight, which caused panic and prompted reports of a shooting.
In his letter, Bennett called it an excessive use of force, simply because he was a “black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He said one officer placed a gun near his head and warned him if he moved he would “blow his (expletive) head off.”
Bennett said officers refused to answer him when he asked, “What did I do?” He said he feared for his life.
According to TMZ Sports, citing unnamed sources it says are connected to the investigation, police ordered everyone to get down and not move. When Bennett ran, an officer stopped him at gunpoint and ordered him to get on the ground.
Eventually, after sitting in the back of a police car “for what felt like an eternity,” he was released after they realized he “was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man, but Michael Bennett, a famous professional football player.”
Bennett, who has been sitting in protest during the national anthem in recent games, gave his reasoning for the protest in the letter.
“(E)quality doesn’t live in this country, and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have or have much you give, when you are seen as a ‘(racial slur)’ you will be treated that way.”
Bennett spoke more about the letter at a news conference Wednesday, calling the police confrontation a “traumatic experience.”
“Do I think every police officer is bad? No,” Bennett said. “Do I believe some people judge people on the color of their skin? I do believe that.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the same news conference he and the team “stand in support of him and anyone facing inequalities.”
“May this incident inspire all of us to respond with compassion when inequalities are brought to light. And allow us to stand up for change, because we can do better than this,” Carroll said.
ESPN reported that Bennett said he was considering filing a civil rights lawsuit. His letter said he has hired Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris.