Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett claimed, through a social media post, that he was racially profiled and the victim of excessive force by officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department following the boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor on Aug. 26.
Bennett said he has hired Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris to explore "all legal options."
Bennett, who played football for Texas A&M University, tweeted a letter on Wednesday describing the alleged incident alongside the word, "equality."
Bennett claimed that after the fight, he was returning to his hotel when he heard what sounded like gunshots, so he joined others in running for cover.
Bennett wrote: "A police officer ordered me to get on the ground. As I laid on the ground, complying with his demands to not move, he placed his gun near my head and warned me that if I moved he would blow my (expletive) head off. Terrified and confused by what was taking place, a second officer came over and forcefully jammed his knee into my back, making it difficult for me to breathe. They then clinched the handcuffs on my wrist so tight that my fingers went numb.
"The officers' excessive use of force was unbearable. I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real life threat of being killed."
Las Vegas police undersheriff Kevin McMahill said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon that police answering an active shooter call saw Bennett "crouched down behind a gaming machine." McMahill said Bennett ran and that because of his actions and "the information we had at the time," the officers believed he may have been involved in the reported shooting.
McMahill said Bennett was detained for approximately 10 minutes. The report of a shooter was later found to be false.
"Mr. Bennett at the scene had the incident explained to him by a supervisor and he said that he understood and that he had no problem with what the officer did, just the one that he claimed pointed a gun at his head."
McMahill said the incident is under investigation. He said the officer who apprehended Bennett did not have hid body camera on at the time.
Note: Bennett's tweet contains explicit language:
Equality. pic.twitter.com/NQ4pJt94AZ— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) September 6, 2017
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in a statement Wednesday the incident was "a classic illustration of the reality of inequality demonstrated daily."
"May this incident inspire all of us to respond with compassion when inequalities are brought to light, and allow us to have the courage to stand for change," Carroll wrote. "We can do better."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that Bennett "represents the best of the NFL -- a leader on his team and in his community."
"Our foremost concern is the welfare of Michael and his family," Goodell said. "While we understand the Las Vegas police department will address this later this evening, the issues Michael has been raising deserve serious attention from all of our leaders in every community. We will support Michael and all NFL players in promoting mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they loyally serve and fair and equal treatment under the law."
In a news conference Wednesday, Bennett declined to address specifics of the incident but thanked his wife for her support.
"People sometimes think the game is the most important thing," Bennett said. "But for me, the whole time I wasn't thinking about the Super Bowl. I wasn't thinking about what play we were going to run against Green Bay or sacking Aaron Rodgers, I was just literally thinking about my wife and children and how much they mean to me."
Bennett, following the lead of Colin Kaepernick's 2016 protest, has been sitting during the national anthem this season to spotlight racial injustice. He said that after the Las Vegas police officers confirmed his identity, he was let go without an explanation.
"I sit during the national anthem because equality doesn't live in this country, and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have, or how much you live, when you are (targeted by the color of your skin), you will be treated that way," Bennett wrote.
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