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Seahawks’ Michael Bennett signs deal to publish provocative title about race and sports

Pro Bowl defensive end continues foray into social commentary and political activism by co-authoring book called “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable”

Michael Bennett is excellent at stirring people up. Beside the trouble he causes blockers between the whistles, Bennett is known for engaging in fights with opponents and even teammates, and earlier this summer found himself in feuds with at least two sports writers (if you can call Stephen A. Smith a “writer” anymore).

Now Bennett will join their ranks by becoming a writer himself, with a publishing deal recently announced for Bennett to author a book scheduled for 2018 with sportswriter Dave Zirin titled “Things that Make White People Uncomfortable.” As Zirin put it in a post on Twitter Monday, “It will be Black Santa’s thoughts about, in his words, ‘the NFL, racism, intersectionality and athletes being no longer silenced.’” The book was previously mentioned by ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia in an article about Bennett’s views on Colin Kaepernick, and Bennett himself alluded to it after his publisher tweeted a link to an article on the same topic back in June.

While a title like this is certain indeed to make some people uncomfortable, the book’s editor Anthony Arnove hinted to Publisher’s Weekly that it may be less a political rant than “a sports memoir and manifesto as hilarious as it is revealing.” Zirin also mentioned this comic side of the manuscript, calling Bennett “one of the most hilarious humans I’ve ever met. Bill Hicks in shoulder pads. People will feel that.”

There’s no accounting for taste, but I want to personally point out that Bennett is already way more funny than Bill Hicks. And probably wears smaller shoulder pads too.

Yet we know there is also a serious, thoughtful side to Bennett, who has proven many times to be one of the more eloquent and outspoken athletes today. Bennett has criticized the exploitation of student athletes in the NCAA and publicly debated the merits of the Black Lives Matter movement with Richard Sherman. Earlier this year Bennett challenged Israel’s policies toward Palestinians and, also in conversation with Zirin, spoke about the importance and responsibilities of athletes engaging in global and community matters. Last week he helped present the Black Education Matters Student Activist Award to a group of winners at Garfield High School in Seattle. On this site, we’ve covered Bennett’s own humanitarian activities endlessly. Of course, not everyone believes in Bennett’s message, and the news of the book stirred at least one conservative commentator to cry racism. Whatever you think of Bennett’s particular views, you can tell he does his homework before he speaks and articulates himself with care and cleverness.

Zirin is the sports editor at The Nation as well as host of the Edge of Sports podcast. He has previously authored titles like Game Over, about politics in sports, Brazil’s Dance with the Devil about the controversial public financing of the Olympics, The John Carlos Story about the American sprinter who held a black glove in the air on the medal stand to protest racial inequality during the 1968 Olympics, and Zirin also helped former Chicago Bull Craig Hodges write his memoir about being an activist athlete, Long Shot, also with Bennett’s publisher Haymarket Books. Haymarket is a self-described “radical” publisher based in Chicago, which has published recent works by Aja Monet, Rebecca Solnit, Naomi Klein and one of Bennett’s heroes, Angela Davis.

Heralding the book deal probably already in the works by then, last month Bennett visited the Haymarket Books booth at an activism summit in Chicago and ended up taking home a few titles:

As someone with great love of both writing and football, I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see Bennett with such a large stack of reading material. I’m looking forward to what kind of dance he unveils on the day his own work gets published at last.