O’Neil: Middle ground hard to find when discussing Michael Bennett
I’ve seen Michael Bennett give too much of his time, give too much of himself, to think that he would deliberately injure a 66-year-old woman in a wheelchair.
I’ve also seen him get too mad at reporters and opposing players to think that he did absolutely nothing wrong after the Super Bowl in Houston 14 months ago.
That’s a long way of saying that the truth of what happened that day in his hometown is somewhere between what the Houston police claim, and the insistence of those close to him – including the company publishing his book – that he is being targeted by police because of his activism.
But good luck finding any type of middle ground while discussing Bennett, though, let alone determining how much truth there is to the Houston police’s allegation that he committed a felony by pushing past security officials to reach the field after his brother’s Patriots team won the Super Bowl.
Before we continue on, it’s worth pausing so I can cop to my own perspective on the guy I’ve covered for not only each of his past five years as a Seahawk but back to 2009 when he was an undrafted rookie who made the team.
He is one of the funniest players I’ve covered, quick witted and irreverent. He is also very earnest about his social goals starting with his attention to healthy eating habits and fighting childhood obesity.
Over the past three years he has also become incredibly condescending, antagonistic and profane in dealing with reporters. I have heard him shout at, intimidate and in one case threaten a member of the media over something that was asked or had been written about him.
I’ve struggled to decide whether that is the manifestation of a deeper character flaw – like someone who is unconscionably rude to servers – or whether it’s just an immature expression of his distaste for modern media.
I settled on the incredibly groundbreaking belief that Bennett is like almost everyone else on the planet in that he is neither unerringly good nor is he irredeemably bad. Some of his actions are inspiring. Others are cringeworthy. This is a guy who believes very strongly in social justice. He’s also someone who made a video with his brother in 2009 about the “Black Olympics” which included drinking Kool-Aid and eating chicken wings.
But those contradictions – that humanity – have become lost in the discussion of both Bennett and his actions. The whole topic has become political in the absolute worst sense of the word because any discussion of Bennett has become a shouting match between two different sides who have constructed their very own one-sided picture of who Bennett is, what he has done and what he represents.
Not only that, neither one of those pictures is even close to being completely accurate.
When someone describes Bennett as a lying scumbag, I shake my head. Lying scumbags don’t start a gardening program in cooperation with the King County youth detention as Bennett did.
But I’m not ready to proclaim Bennett is entirely innocent here, either. The guy has it in him to act like a total jerk. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard it. And while a person shouldn’t be defined by only the very worst moments, those mistakes shouldn’t be excused because of the nobility of their other intentions.