The Eagles already have a reputation for being the most “woke” team in the NFL.
And now we have former Seattle Seahawk Michael Bennett, one of the league’s most outspoken players, heading our way. So, as soon as I heard that the newly signed Eagles defensive lineman has a book coming out April 3, I started trying to get an advance copy.
In the 220-page tome, co-written with Dave Zirin of the Nation and published by Haymarket Books, he goes in hard on everything. Nothing is spared. Not the NFL. Not the Trump administration. Not police brutality. Not even the n-word.
Admittedly, I’m not the biggest sports fan. I’m often more interested in players’ off-field antics than game-day minutia. But I got curious about Bennett on March 7, after the Eagles signed him and all the pushback popped up from critics who called him a “thug” and accused him of hating cops. That caught my attention, as did his tweet of “Free Meek Mill” immediately after the deal was announced. Who was this player sparking so much negativity before he even began practicing with the team? And what would make him call his new book Things That Make White People Uncomfortable?
The answer, it turns out, is complicated. Perhaps a whole lot more complicated than the Eagles’ management had bargained for when it signed him.
Bennett, 32, surrendered to authorities in Houston on Monday on a charge that he injured a paraplegic woman as he tried to get onto the field after last year’s Super Bowl to celebrate with his brother Martellus, a former tight end for the New England Patriots. Prosecutors allege he pushed through security personnel, including a 66-year-old woman in a wheelchair who was a stadium employee, according to the Associated Press. Bail was set at $10,000. Our sources say Eagles management wasn’t aware of the allegations when it signed him.
The conspiracy theorist in me doesn’t know what to make of the accusations. Why are they coming now, more than a year after the incident allegedly happened?
The book describes him as a gentle giant who is married to his high school sweetheart and is a doting father of three girls. From what I’ve read, he doesn’t seem like the type who would intentionally knock into an elderly woman, spraining her shoulder, just to get onto the football field after a game. In his book, he devotes an entire chapter to his daughters and the power of women. Who talks about the intersectionality of women’s issues and then knocks Grandma out of the way?
Bennett will be signing his book at Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books in Germantown on Saturday from 7 until 9 p.m.. That could be our chance to ask what this is all about. Not that he’ll need an ice-breaker. The title of his book alone is conversation starter enough.
After I got my copy, the first thing I did was remove the jacket. I didn’t want to get passersby worked up over what I was reading when I wasn’t clear what it was myself.
But once I got into it, I realized there is more to this book than just politics. It’s also a moving memoir about a black youngster from a farm in Louisiana, where he picked okra and bell peppers, who rises to become a three-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion.
The second of five, Bennett comes from a long line of farmers. By age 11, he’d grown so big and strong he was able to lift a tractor all by himself to keep it from falling on his grandfather. After his parents split, he and his brother Martellus stayed with their dad while their other siblings went with their mother or other relatives. His stepmother, a schoolteacher, loved him like he was her own. For punishments, she would make him read encyclopedias — a practice he secretly enjoyed.
In the book, he writes about how the murder of James Byrd, an African American who was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck in 1998 by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas, shook him to his core. It was a defining moment in his childhood because it caused him to begin to think deeply and also to rage about the plight of the black man in America, a practice he continues today.
That’s something that makes a whole lot of people uncomfortable.