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Michael Bennett on concussions, painkillers: “We need to listen to our bodies”

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Former Seahawks defensive end speaks in wide ranging interview on Democracy Now! podcast

Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Michael Bennett addressed the NFL’s concussion crisis on the public broadcast interview show Democracy Now! Tuesday. Among other things, Bennett said he believes part of the difficulty with reforming football to make the games safer for athletes is the way fans fail to see players as human: “If the fans start to feel the human aspect of each player then the NFL has no choice, because the fans are going to be bringing up these questions. It’s just like any other thing—the players are fighting for one thing, the fans are fighting for something else.”

Bennett also said professional football players are in a unique position to advocate for safety even in other levels of the sport because children and college athletes are often unable to challenge their authorities for fear of losing their place on a team or scholarships.

He also spoke about the NFL’s use of painkillers including opioids to treat injuries, and suggested the league should experiment with allowing players to use herbal medicines like marijuana to help manage the tolls on their bodies. On the same subject, Bennett talked about the precarious relationship athletes have with masculinity and their own fears.

“There’s a lot of players who have fear. Those things are dealing with your self and insecurities about like my own body,” Bennett said. “And a lot of people don’t want to admit that but for young kids it’s important for athletes to be vulnerable, when it comes to injuries or when it comes to the dark side of sports whether it’s depression or different types of things. Because we glorify the greatest parts of it but we must also amplify the worst parts of it.”

Watch the full hour-long interview here or click the curated links below to different parts of the conversation:

As has become his custom, Bennett discussed a wide range of topics including promoting his recent book, “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable”, and his activism for racial equality and justice, stories from his childhood, his brother Martellus Bennett’s creative pursuits as an artist and entrepreneur and many more topics.

At one point Bennett mentions he doesn’t visit Starbucks anymore, and advises listeners to support local businesses rather than chains.

Seattle Seahawks fans may be particularly curious to hear the portions related to dynamics in the NFL, for example the lack of diversity in ownership in professional sports.

Here are direct links to the different segments of the show:

Bennett on concussions and treatments for brain injuries

Bennett on his book and the controversies over player protests

Bennett on growing up black in the South