[Publisher’s Note: We received the following letter from a Seattle-area officer, written in response to the controversy surrounding Michael Bennett’s detention in Las Vegas after a suspected active shooter incident. Football–like everything else it seems–has of recent become rife with controversies. But seldom have we heard from how they affect police. If you aren’t familiar with the Bennett incident, a timeline is appended to the end of the article, along with primary documents, for your convenience.]
Dear Seattle Seahawks,
Pete Carroll implored us to be better and stand up to inequity when we encounter it. Well, here goes.
I am a local police officer and twelfth man. But after this week, I’m not sure I can reconcile the two anymore. Not because of what Michael Bennett said, but rather because of what Coach Carroll said and his egregious implications of the entire police profession.
That’s not to say that I don’t disagree with Michael Bennett, I do. He spoke out against the police for reacting with prejudice and bias, and, in the next breath, did that very thing with regard to the Las Vegas officers who detained Bennett. He didn’t know the officer’s names but, apparently, he knows them well enough to peer into their hearts and minds and impugn them as racists.
And this isn’t the first time Michael Bennett has been presumptuous about what he claims to know. Last season, he presumed that Q-13 sports reporter Bill Wixley wouldn’t know what it’s like to persevere through physical adversity. Really Mr. Bennet? Wixley is a cancer survivor. But this is the new normal, not having to know the facts before concluding something is true. As long as you feel or believe it is, you can go ahead and say it publicly with little thought to its ultimate impact.
But, again, Michael Bennett isn’t who has me wondering whether being a Seahawks fan, as a police officer, is tenable anymore. Until now I’ve been able to make distinctions between the opinions expressed by individual players and the team I love to root for on Sundays. All that changed this week when Pete Carroll weighed in.
As the coach, I fully expected that he’d come out in support of Michael Bennett. But Coach Carroll went further by saying what Mr. Bennett experienced was a “classic example of the reality of inequality.” When he said that, he not only presumed to know as much about police response tactics to a terrorist event —that’s what an active shooter situation is—as he does about winning football games. Worse, he too presumed to know that these officers had racist motivations and purposely singled his player out because of the color of his skin.
Shame on you coach.
Coach Carroll leads that group of men, sets the tone, fosters the culture. Along with Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, and Richard Sherman, he assumed the worst of those police officers while standing on the team’s platform, in front of the team’s logo, from the team’s headquarters, and on the team’s website. When he said those things, I heard not the opinion or belief of an individual, but that of my team, the Seattle Seahawks as a whole.
Just as I don’t understand how it is to coach an NFL game, Coach Carroll obviously knows nothing about what those officers were going through during an active shooter event. It’s more than Xs and Os on a chalkboard, I guarantee you that.
Here’s some food for thought about what they were experiencing.
They were dispatched to reports of an active shooter in a casino on Las Vegas Boulevard. Think about that for a second. Thousands of people concentrated in a localized area, with an armed gunman shooting. Consider the confusion of The Strip and the challenges that saving lives under such conditions would present. That’s what these officers were attempting to do: potentially stopping more bloodshed at no small risk to themselves. They were there to save the lives of everyone, including your player.
In an active shooter situation, an officer’s personal safety is set aside. Ever since Columbine we have adopted the ethic of stopping at nothing to neutralize the threat. Even if that means sacrificing ourselves. We will put ourselves between the shooter and total strangers of every race, creed, color and life choice.
Here’s what that means physiologically. Acid dumps into our stomachs. Our vision becomes tunneled, as though we are looking through a paper towel tube. You stop hearing certain things, but at the same time you’re overwhelmed with other sounds. Fine motor skills disappear. You are gulping air as you find yourself losing oxygen. You forget how you got from where you were to where you are now. That’s what those officers were experiencing when they noticed Michael Bennet running from them.
All of that is overwhelming and terrifying. More terrifying than missing a block or dropping a ball.
According to the Las Vegas police, “Bennett was seen crouched down behind a gaming machine as the officers approached. Once Bennett was in the officer’s view, he quickly ran out the south doors, jumped over a wall onto Flamingo Road East of Las Vegas Boulevard into traffic.”
You think, out of all the hundreds of people they encountered–people of every race by the way–that maybe Bennett’s behavior was the cause of the officer’s actions? Not the color of his skin?
To suggest that, in the middle of all that chaos, those officers saw an opportunity to single out Michael Bennett and terrorize him because of his race is not only biased in and of itself, it is breathtakingly ignorant.
Remember this please, coach. It takes seven referees two minutes to review high-definition video from multiple camera angles on a well-lit, flat, unobstructed field of play just to determine if the ball was caught inbounds or a knee was down. Think about that when you judge police officers, who are frightened and overwhelmed, but who are still going selflessly towards the perceived threat.
Coach, calling officers you’ve never met, talked to or know anything about, racists, that is what creates “inequality.”
I wasn’t a football fan at all until I was involved in a fatal shooting at work a number of years ago. I needed a temporary escape from the post-traumatic stress that followed and started watching NFL football. Now, I’m in deep. At game time, I text with my dad, my uncle, my brother, my nephew throughout each game. My wife and kids and I get the annual family Santa photo done in our Seahawks jerseys. I was like a kid on Christmas putting my Seahawks flag up by the front door of our house the day of the first pre-season game. Just like all the 12s, I’ve been waiting to break out all my jerseys, sweatshirts, and gear.
The other day was Blue Friday, and not just any Blue Friday, but the first one after the long, tedious drought of the off season. I wear plain clothes and have a boring desk job so I can wear pretty much whatever I want. But last week, for the first time, I couldn’t see myself walking into the police station wearing my Seattle Seahawks garb. Not after that team impugned my fellow officers. I couldn’t walk by all the selfless, dedicated, courageous police officers loading up their patrol cars and heading out to confront the unknown.
All my Seahawks stuff is sitting in a pile on the floor of my closet. I’m going to leave it there for a week or two while I marinate on this a bit more, consider the opinions of others, and see how things play out. I’m conflicted, truthfully. But if it comes down to it, I may be selling off my jerseys, flag, and other stuff and donating the proceeds to the Las Vegas Police Officers Union.
Teamless in Seattle
Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017
Las Vegas Metro received a call about an active shooter around 1:30 a.m. in the Cromwell Casino after the Mayweather-McGreggor fight. Everyone was told to evacuate.
Despite initial panic, it was found later that no shots had been fired. According to reports from the scene, the loud noises had resulted from a brawl near the casino entrance, which had toppled a number of ornamental statues.
Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017
Michael Bennett (Seattle Seahawks defensive end) tweeted one word, “Equality,” with the following photo/letter:
Wednesday September 6th, 2017
Coach Pete Carroll addresses the media.
Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017
Las Vegas Police Union sends letter to NFL asking for an investigation of Michael Bennett for “false and defamatory” comments.
Friday, Sept. 8, 2017
“There is no allegation of a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy and therefore there is no basis for an NFL investigation,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in response to the LVPD’s request, via ESPN.com.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith also issued a statement: “There are no grounds for the NFL to investigate our union rep, and I look forward to [NFL Commissioner] Roger [Goodell] confirming the same.”