GREEN BAY – After speaking to reporters for nearly 20 minutes at his locker, Packers tight end Martellus Bennett’s final words were the most poignant.
“You just think, ‘What if?’” Bennett said, getting emotional as he concluded a long discussion about an altercation with Las Vegas police his brother, Seahawks defensive lineman Michael, revealed publicly in a social media letter on Wednesday.
According to Michael Bennett, as police wrestled him to the ground to handcuff him in response to sounds resembling gunfire heard amidst the crowd departing from the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight on Aug. 26, an officer put a gun to his head and threatened to “blow his (expletive) head off.”
“Two seconds this way, two seconds that way, and the whole thing is different,” Martellus Bennett said after practice late Wednesday, starting to let tears flow that he’d been holding back the whole time. “For me, I’ll just be happy to see my brother because there was a chance I couldn’t see him.”
Sunday at Lambeau Field will be the first time Martellus will see his brother since the incident. They initially spoke about it not long after it happened, following Martellus’ late-night return from the Packers’ preseason game at Denver, which finished as the prize fight in Vegas got underway.
Martellus said they have spoken via FaceTime multiple times per week, and they’ve talked on the phone several times as well. The night of the incident, Martellus said his focus was on calming Michael down.
Since then, he’s just tried to help his brother deal with his emotions, process his desire to go public, and navigate how to do so.
“I’m very proud of Michael and the way that he handled it,” Martellus said.
The Las Vegas Police Department has said the incident is under investigation.
After Michael’s letter was posted online Wednesday, Martellus responded with his own heartfelt social media post, and then a partial video of the incident also surfaced on the internet. It was understandably difficult for Martellus to watch.
“I had to walk out of a meeting, because I broke down crying thinking about what could have happened, what could have been,” said Martellus, later adding that he’s obviously looking forward to his brother coming to town.
“Sometimes a hug is the best thing you can give,” he said. “I don’t have the answers.”
Michael Bennett has been one of the NFL’s more outspoken players on social issues, and he has continued the silent protest, started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year, of kneeling during the national anthem before the past month’s preseason games.
Michael had said before the Vegas incident he plans to continue kneeling during the regular season. How others react around him on Sunday at Lambeau will certainly be watched closely.
The Seahawks have made public statements of support for Michael, as has NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and Martellus hopes the involvement of his brother – a rich, famous athlete – in this incident will generate discussions about the inherent social and racial issues that he believes many are hesitant to engage in.
“I think a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about these things in the world,” Martellus said. “But I think it’s a conversation that needs to be had.”