FOXBORO – Martellus Bennett’s candor is on full display in an ESPN The Magazine profile the publication is pushing on Wednesday.
The Patriots tight end and his brother Michael Bennett of the Seahawks spent portions of three days with ESPN senior writer Mina Kimes and the results were illuminating.
The primary takeaway? Neither of the Bennett Brothers is talking just to hear himself talk. There’s forethought and substance on matters that matter. And there’s also a crafted effort to be quirky, irreverent and thought-provoking.
While there are parts of the interview that are trite and formulaic (do any of these stories not start in a damn restaurant and the ESPN party line of the Patriots being a latter-day Kremlin is adhered to), it’s miles better done than most.
Probably because the Bennetts were good interview subjects.
I won’t pilfer the quotes because the thing deserves a click but I did ask Bennett if the Patriots tried to muzzle him.
“When I came here nobody asked me to be anybody else besides myself,” he said. “I think that’s one of the biggest things they give me – the freedom to be who I am. I think they understand I’m smarter than I look. Overall, they just let me be me and I think overall that’s the biggest thing with making progress and getting to know everybody. When you’re able to be yourself, everybody gets to know how authentic you are and understand who you are as a person. It’s not – one day I’m this person, the next day I’m that person. I don’t want to be like Nurse Jackie (from the Showtime series of the same name).”
As for players having the responsibility to find their voice, Bennett said, “At the end of the day, everybody has to stand for something. Nowadays a lot of guys don’t have morals or stand for anything. Wherever the dollar takes them or whatever brand it is that represents them, they do whatever that brand tells them even if they believe in something different. The way me and my brother have always been is to speak our minds in what we believe in. We speak our minds and stand for something. Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.
“Whatever I believe in I speak on and I’m very honest,” he continued. “That’s who I am. I learned from guys like Muhammad Ali, Shaq and those guys growing up. Those guys were able to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s penning a letter called “Dear Black Boy” that was on The Players’ Tribune, we believe in these things. We believe we can make a difference. We’ve been given a position of power where a lot of people look up to us, a lot of kids so you have to stand for something otherwise the kids will eat up commercials, eat McDonalds and they think they can eat McDonalds every day for lunch and make it to the NFL That’s not what it is, we all eat healthy. So that’s what we should be telling them. That’s what we’re doing.”
Strange segue to fast food but point taken just the same.
Lastly, I asked Bennett if he perceived more players taking sociological issues more seriously.
“I think it’s flipping over,” he explained. “With everything going on in the world I think it’s starting to transition. History repeats itself. There’s a lot of athletes stepping up to the plate whether it’s Carmelo Anthony, Michael Bennett, whoever it may be, a lot of guys are stepping up and saying something.”
There is a difference between merely “saying something” and saying something useful.
There are plenty of athletes (and media members and Americans) who feel compelled to jump on the reaction train and offer the most knee-bucklingly obvious observations just to be “heard.”
In Bennett’s case – and you should read his Players’ Tribune piece – you have a person who’s articulating a viewpoint that we should feel obliged to consider. Because it’s not just shooting off at the lip. There’s substance.
Tom E. Curran can be followed on Twitter: @tomecurran