It doesn't matter if it stays in Vegas or not.
When it comes to NFL player Michael Bennett and the police, what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t stay in Las Vegas, and in fact, we get two entirely different versions of what happened in Las Vegas.
At issue is Seattle Seahawks star Michael Bennett who claims that the Las Vegas police targeted and harassed him because he was African American, while the Las Vegas Police are adamant they acted in a proper and professional manner. If this plot sounds like a summer rerun it is because for the last two years this has been the running beef that has caused a major disconnect not only between NFL players and police officers throughout America, but also NFL Players and many of their former fans. At its core, this is a story of how the ongoing protests by NFL players are getting the opposite results the protesting players hoped for.
What we know is Michael Bennett claims that after the Mayweather/McGregor fight in Las Vegas, while walking back to his hotel he heard gunshots which caused him to run for safety where he was then spotted by the police. Bennett was detained by the police, in his opinion, “for being a black man in the wrong place and the wrong time.” Bennett alleges he was harassed by the police, which included having his life threatened with a gun if he moved. It should be noted before this incident Bennett was one of the NFL players who had taken to sitting during the National Anthem to protest what he believes are injustices to African Americans.
The Las Vegas police have an entirely different take on the Michael Bennett affair. Police spokesman Kevin McMahill was adamant that at this point there is no evidence that race played a factor in Bennett being detained. According to McMahill, the officers were responding to an active shooter call and saw Bennett crouched behind a gaming machine when he then fled. “Due to Bennett’s actions and the information officers had at the time, they believed Bennett may have been involved in the shooting and they gave chase. Bennett was placed in handcuffs and detained while officers determined whether or not he was involved in the original incident.”
With the facts as we know them, it is impossible to know for sure whose version is correct. But it is fair to ask, as we are now going on two years of NFL player protests, what impact if any have activist NFL players had on American society?
For one, since the player protest began, Americans are tuning out the NFL. Last year’s NFL TV ratings were down double-digits, and NFL executives assured nervous advertisers that this was due to TV coverage being devoted to a Presidential election. This year’s opening day game featured the high profile New England Patriots, which did little to spark a renewed interest as the game’s TV ratings were down double-digits again compared to last year, the worst NFL ratings for the opening game since 2009.
Nor can it be said that the NFL player protests have improved the lives of the people they purportedly advocate for, young disenfranchised African-American men in the inner city. It is an indisputable fact that cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson, the inspiration for the players who protest, are now more violent and dangerous cities than before, with young African-American men more likely to die in that violence.
It can even be argued that the NFL player protests were just one of the many reasons why voters who had sat out the previous few elections came out in droves to elect Donald Trump President. In a way, it was a protest vote to protest the protesters on the left, along with the cultural changes they advocated.
Part of why the NFL player protests have turned off most Americans is that the players contend that both America as a country and the police as an institution are inherently racist. This is a sentiment a majority of Americans adamantly reject as false and disgusting. And sitting during the National Anthem isn’t exactly a great way to warm middle America to one’s cause.
The irony, of course, is that the protesting NFL players’ tactics have been so off-putting that even if Michael Bennett’s claims that he was mistreated by the police because of race are correct, most Americans have yawned and don’t care as the NFL players who protest each Sunday have become nothing more than the little boy who cried wolf and racism all the time.
Mike Morris/Flickr-Creative Commons