NFL Players Skip Trip to ‘Israel’ to Be ‘Voice for the Voiceless’

  • Defensive end Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks
    Defensive end Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks | Photo: Reuters
Michael Bennett said that he would not allow Israel to “use” him to cover up its abuses against the Palestinians.

Several U.S. football players are boycotting an NFL trip to Israel paid for by the Israeli government in a major setback to Israeli efforts to whitewash the country’s occupation of Palestinian lands and continuing illegal settlement expansion.

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The Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett is one of the major stars boycotting the trip, posting a statement on his Twitter profile explaining that when he agreed to the trip he was not informed “that my itinerary was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purposes of making me, in the words of a government official, an ‘influencer and opinion-former’ who would then be “an ambassador of good will.’”

He said he was excited to visit the land as a whole including the West Bank and Gaza. “I will not be used in such a manner. When I do go to Israel — and I do plan to go — it will be to see not only Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza so I can see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives.”

Bennett’s brother Martellus Bennett, who plays for the NFL’s New England Patriots, said earlier this week that he would not be going to the White House to meet President Donald Trump as a member of the Super Bowl champions.

“One of my heroes has always been Muhammad Ali. I know that Ali always stood strongly with the Palestinian people, visiting refugee camps, going to rallies, and always willing to be a ‘voice for the voiceless.’

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“I want to be a ‘voice for the voiceless,’ and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel,” the defensive end for the Seahawks said in his statement. The Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett also said he would not be going on the trip.

Their decision to skip the trip to Israel came shortly after an open letter was published in The Nation where several activists including Angela Davis, Alice Walker, John Carlos and Craig Hodges called on the NFL players to “consider the political ramifications of a propaganda trip organized by the Israeli government.”

The letter argued that the visit “aims to prevent players from seeing the experience of Palestinians living under military occupation.”

Bennett concluded by saying that he expected some public backlash against his decision but argued that he had to pull out of the trip in order to be true to “my own values and my own conscience.”

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