Seattle Seahawk Michael Bennett’s public statement, featuring a vivid, emotional description of his being handcuffed and threatened by Las Vegas police on the morning of August 27 during a chaotic scene on the strip, was disturbing enough. As video and photographic evidence shows, he was put on the ground by the Vegas police and handcuffed with a knee put into his back, while the primary officer took out a weapon and placed it near the back of his head.
While an official spokesperson for the LVPD merely asked people to suspend commentary until it completed its investigation, the police union, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, has chosen to escalate this situation in a manner that should enrage anyone who thinks the police should serve everyone equally under the law.
In a public letter addressed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Vegas police union gives the game away early. In the opening paragraph, it calls on Goodell to “conduct an investigation, and take appropriate action, into Michael Bennett’s obvious false allegations against our officers.” But calling upon Bennett’s employer to investigate him in response to speaking about what happened is, gobsmackingly, not even the most repugnant part. The union then references Bennett’s anthem protests, and with the thud of a bully’s sucker-punch, writes, “While the NFL may condone Bennett’s disrespect for our American Flag, and everything it symbolizes, we hope the league will not ignore Bennett’s false accusations against our police officers.”
Invoking Bennett’s politics as a post-facto justification for what took place is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. It is a cheap effort to put out the idea to the world that, no matter what the officers in question may have done, Michael Bennett deserved what happened to him because of his political beliefs.
After that, the letter is just manure thrown against the wall, with the hope that something sticks. It’s terribly shoddy work—for a document aiming to refute “Bennett’s false accusations against our police officers,” nothing factual that Bennett described in his own letter or subsequent press conference is either challenged or refuted.
Bennett claimed that he feared for his life after hearing what he thought were gunshots. He fled with masses of other people. He then said—and, again, this is backed up by photographs and video we have seen—that a police officer put a gun by his head as he lay handcuffed and prone on the ground, threatening to “blow [his] fucking head off.” We would know more, but the officer had his body camera turned off at the time of the incident. Nothing in the letter says that the scenario described above did not take place.