Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett called out the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton specifically Saturday as not doing enough to impact social change from his position.
By Sunday night, Bennett had reached out to apologize to the All-Pro quarterback.
The outspoken Bennett said Monday on SportsCenter that he called Newton to apologize for intimating Newton was satisfied with making millions without affecting change in society.
Through a team spokesman, Newton declined to comment on Bennett’s remarks or reported apology.
Bennett, wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt Saturday, commended WNBA and NBA players for taking a stand on racism and violence. But he lamented that few NFL players have done the same.
“In the NBA, everybody is standing up for it, so the greatest players are in the forefront of the movement,” Bennett said, according to ESPN.com. “Here in the NFL, the greatest players aren’t in the forefront of the movement. Whether it’s the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), whether it’s things going on with trying to change the way — concussions. The greatest players aren’t involved like LeBron James, Chris Paul and all these guys (in the NBA). Our great players are sitting back just taking the dollars, whether it’s Cam Newton, all these guys. They’re not really on the forefront of trying to change what’s going on.”
Newton has long said he doesn’t want all his private works to be public. After nine black people were killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last year, Newton visited relatives of one of the victims. He said shortly after the visit he had “to use (his) influence in a positive way.”
His foundation has also donated more than $500,000 to communities and school systems in Charlotte and Atlanta.
“Well, me personally, I feel that as an athlete, you have so much responsibility,” Newton said last week. “Not to get into the numbers or logistics of how many do or who gives back or who doesn’t. It’s something that just comes by default. When you talk about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, the Peyton Mannings, the Tom Bradys, the Aaron Rodgers, the Steph Currys, we all have power. And power that’s outside of sport. And doing with that power is on you personally.
“That’s something that my parents have instilled in me—to always give back to the community. And it’s just great that you have people stand up for something, from the violence that’s going on or whatever. And I don’t want to dwell on the negativity in the country because we have so many things that are great that are going on. We have so many good relationships and the positiveness. That’s the thing I want to talk about and dwell on.”
Bennett said on SportsCenter that it wasn’t his mission to create division within the NFL community.
“Just want to work well with all the players together,” Bennett said. “It takes a village to do something like this. It’s not going to be one player. It’s going to be a group of players. I just want to emphasize that to a lot of the players.”
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen offered his take on athletes using their platform to speak out. A 10-year veteran, Olsen said he credits players who can speak intelligently and accurately on societal situations, whether or not one agrees with everything the other says.
“In our world some guys feel confident going out there and taking a stance and other guys don’t,” Olsen said Monday. “And I don’t think there’s necessarily right or wrong on either approach. I think it’s a hard world that we live in. I think there are a lot of factors that are going on that are very unfortunate.
“Most common-sense people would love a magic wand that would make it all go away, but the reality is that it’s not. I don’t have the answers, but I think if people want to use their platform to advocate change on that, then more power to them. And I would encourage them to do it.”