ABOVE PHOTO: Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, left, talks with Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch before an NFL preseason football game between the Raiders and the Seahawks in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
By Ken Ritter
LAS VEGAS — Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett accused Las Vegas police on Wednesday of racially motivated excessive force in a Twitter posting saying he was threatened at gunpoint following a report of gunshots at an after-hours club at a casino-hotel.
Bennett said on a Twitter message titled “Dear World,” that police “singled me out and pointed their guns at me for doing nothing more than simply being a Black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Police later attributed the report of gunfire at Drai’s to the sharp sound of velvet rope stands being knocked to a tile floor at the Cromwell resort a few hours after the Aug. 26 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor.
Bennett, a 6-foot-4 defensive end who has been a leader of the national anthem protests started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, said he was among “several hundred people” running away from the sound.
He said he was he was handcuffed face-down on the ground after an officer held a gun to his head saying he would blow his head off if he moved.
He said he thought of his wife and children. “All I could think of was ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am Black and my skin color is somehow a threat,’” he wrote.
Bennett said he was taken to the back of a police car “until they apparently realized I was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary Black man but Michael Bennett a famous professional football player.” He was released without charges.
Las Vegas police Officer Jacinto Rivera said police were checking for casino and police body camera video and written reports. He said the department couldn’t immediately verify Bennett’s account or identify the officers involved.
“Without looking at video footage or reading any reports we can’t say yet what happened,” Rivera said.
A video posted by celebrity news site TMZ shows a view from a balcony as a police officer kneels on the back of a man who looks like Bennett. Protests are heard, including, “I wasn’t doing nothing,” and, “I was here with my friends. They told us to get out and everybody ran.”
Bennett’s attorney, John Burris in Oakland, California, confirmed the words were Bennett’s. The attorney said he believed the 30-second video clip showed some of how his client was treated.
“We think there was an unlawful detention and the use of excessive force, with a gun put to his head,” Burris told The Associated Press. “He was just in the crowd. He doesn’t drink or do drugs. He wasn’t in a fight. He wasn’t resisting. He did nothing more or less than anyone in the crowd.”
Burris said Bennett waited to make public his account of the incident until after Burris contacted Las Vegas police last week by letter and email, seeking police records of Bennett’s detention.
Bennett, whose brother Martellus plays for the Packers, has been one of the most outspoken pro athletes on numerous social issues. Last month, he held a benefit for the family of a pregnant Black woman fatally shot by two White Seattle police officers in June. Police say she threatened the officers with at least one knife after calling 911 to report that someone had broken into her apartment and stolen video-game consoles. Lyles’ family says the shooting could have been avoided and that they believe race was a factor.
“For me it’s always finding a way to impact the community on every single level; locally, nationally, and globally,” Bennett said following the benefit. “To be able to have something happen in your city and to be able to build a bridge between people regardless of color, regardless of gender, and regardless of economic hardships, you want to be able to bring people together and be able to do something for kids.”