SEATTLE – The news of the Michael Bennett trade struck a chord with people in the community with whom he’s collaborated on social justice issues. For them, Bennett was much more than just a football player.
“It really hurts to have him gone. It hurts me personally as a friend of his, as a collaborator,” said Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian.
Hagopian says Bennett often visited Garfield High to encourage students, to teach them their lives matter, and to condemn violence against women.
“Michael Bennett wanted to make sure that locker room talk has nothing to do with violence against women and that has to be challenged,” said Hagopian.
Bennett helped put on a benefit with the grieving family of Charleena Lyles, the 30-year-old pregnant mother who was shot and killed by two Seattle police officers last summer.
“He just came in and was like, 'I’m not coming to you as Michael Bennett the Seahawk. I’m just coming to you as Michael Bennett. What can I do to help your family?'” said Charleena Lyles' cousin Katrina Johnson.
Bennett paid for the summer benefit to raise money for the four kids Charleena left behind.
“We all have a responsibility and we’re all accountable to what happens in our community. How can we make change? How can we be supportive to a family that’s going through something?” asked Bennett at the benefit in July 2017.
He didn’t just talk about it, Bennett displayed his fight for racial equality by sitting during the national anthem several times last season.
“His unyielding commitment to say black lives have value and I’m willing to sit during the national anthem to point that out to people even if I incur vitriol and abuse,” said Hagopian.
Now, Bennett will no longer be a Seahawk, but a Philadelpia Eagle. The newest member of the defending Super Bowl champions. But Hagopian argues it won’t be his efforts on the field we’ll all remember.
“At the time, those great activist athletes like Muhammad Ali and John Carlos were criticized. Today they’re widely celebrated. I think we’ll look back at Michael Bennett the same way,” said Hagopian.
Hagopian also added that every Friday, Bennett would meet with kids at the Youth Detention Center. Bennett is expected to be in the Seattle area next month for the release of his new book.