Update: Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills also canceled his trip to Israel and New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett showed support for his brother by retweeting Michael Bennett’s statement. Justin Forsett of the Denver Broncos also pulled out of the trip, but cited the birth of his child as the reason behind his decision. However, Forsett did show support to Michael Bennett by retweeting his statement.
It’s hard enough to enjoy day-to-day activities in the U.S. without constantly being reminded that your politicians and tax dollars support an illegal occupation of your friends and family on the other side of the world.
So, it feels good when an athlete, of whom you admire for his skill set, displays true activism by denying a normalizing trip to occupied-Palestine.
NFL Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks canceled his trip to Israel, after an open letter asked him and 11 of his colleagues to cancel their trip. After Bennett wrote a letter explaining his decision, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills tweeted he wouldn’t attend the trip either.
Bennett announced his decision on his Twitter and Instagram account, “Im not going to Israel,” only hours after the open letter was published. New England Patriots’ tight end Martellus Bennett, who was also invited to propaganda trip, supported his brother’s statement by retweeting it, but has not officially stated whether or not he will attend. Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett has also pulled out of the trip, but cited his wife’s pregnancy as his reason.
Im not going to Israel pic.twitter.com/KWzA0nCiFb
— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) February 10, 2017
Palestine human rights organizations and activists urged the NFL players to cancel their trip, which was organized by the Israeli Government.
According to The Times of Israel, 12 NFL players were invited to go on a trip to Israel. The propaganda trip would give the players “a balanced picture of Israel, the opposite from the false incitement campaign that is being waged against Israel around the world.”
Cliff Avril, Delanie Walker, Michael Kendricks, Cameron Jordan, Calais Campbell, Carlos Hyde, Dan Williams and ESPN commentator and former linebacker Kirk Morrison were also invited and have yet to comment on Bennett and Stills decision.
The call to cancel the trip comes from the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement led by Palestinians and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement. The BDS movement targets institutions and businesses complicit in human rights violations done by Israel to the Palestinians people and urges them to comply with international law.
“You now have an opportunity to speak out against the injustices facing Palestinians. We urge you to rethink your participation in this trip to Israel and the message it will send to your millions of fans who look up to you,” the letter read.
The signed organizations of this letter included US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, US Palestinian Community Network, The Dream Defenders, Jewish Voice for Peace, US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Activists, Angela Davis, Dr. John Carlos, Alice Walker, Craig Hodges, Bill Fletcher Jr., Alicia Garza, Marc Lamont Hill, Boots Riley, Umi Selah, Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor, Jasiri X also signed the letter.
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights is circulating a petition thanking Bennett for answering the BDS call and refusing to go to Israel. I highly recommend that anyone who is a fan of the NFL and human rights do so.
But more importantly, we need the nine remaining NFL players to follow in Bennett’s footsteps. Athletes in the U.S. are privileged with a huge platform with the capability of reaching millions of people. Refusing to normalize Israel’s illegal occupation will boost moral for thousands of Americans fighting for justice around the world and millions of Palestinians living under the brutal occupation.
Far too often, I’m confronted with the normalization of Israel. Whether I’m enjoying a TV series, watching sports or listening to President Donald Trump champion the wall that separates Palestinian from their families and rightful land. So, yes these small victories make a Palestinian living in the diaspora feel overwhelmed with joy.
Despite this joyous moment, Palestinian Americans and those who stand in solidarity with us, will continue to fight to end the occupation.