Martellus Bennett Says 'the NFL Is Racist': League 'Was Built on the Backs of Black Athletes'

The retired NFL player called out several players and league officials for being complicit in racial injustices

Martellus Bennett
Photo: John Lamparski/Getty

Martellus Bennett is speaking out against the National Football League, its officials, several players and members of the sports media for what he says is being complicit in racial injustice and perpetuating racism.

Following the recent killing of George Floyd — an unarmed black man who died after having his neck knelt on by a Minneapolis police officer — and the subsequent protests over police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, Bennett spoke out against the prejudice and racism he saw and experienced while a player with the NFL.

In a lengthy Twitter thread, the retired tight end, 33, not only specifically criticized players like Drew Bees — who apologized on Thursday for his comments about #TakeaKnee — for their response to the current movement, but also outlined the several ways he says the league propped up white players while disadvantaging their black players.

Bennett began his thread by criticizing white NFL quarterbacks and players for staying silent "when it wasn’t easy to speak up," however, "now that there’s a safety net everyone wants to speak up."

"And y’all wanna applaud them for these statements, when y’all crucified every athlete that said something by protesting in the beginning," he said, seemingly referencing Colin Kaepernick and his peaceful kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.

"Look [I'm] happy they’re saying something [now] but when they had a chance to make a big play for their black teammates and colleagues most of em remained silent, showed ignorance or didn’t say anything of importance when it was really needed," the former Dallas Cowboys player added.

He then touched on the privilege white athletes are granted, writing that black quarterbacks "have to do every f------- thing right," adding that if they act out of line "the narrative wouldn’t be swagger it [would] be unfocused, not serious."

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Bennett moved on to reflect on his own experience as a black player, saying that the white players he "showered with, slept next to, s-----d next to, counted on etc, etc would never speak up for me" when faced with racial injustice.

In response to Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio's recent statements claiming discrimination and racism aren't problems in the NFL, he said, "and fangio saying that there’s no racism in the league is like sitting on an elephant and telling me it’s a horse."

"Of course the league has racism because there are racist players, coaches, owners, GMs, trainers, executives in it," he added. "How are you leading black men that feel that racism everyday when you telling em it doesn’t exist."

Martellus Bennett
Martellus Bennett. Justin Edmonds/Getty

Bennett continued, noting the lack of black coaches as another example of the league's race issues.

"All these coaches with white daddy syndrome in the league and football period talking down to black players in a way they would never do to a white player know it’s wrong then want to turn around and tell em im hard on because I love you like you’re my own son as an excuse," he said.

"The nfl is racist. The main reason they don’t have black coaches is because of racism not because they aren’t 'qualified.' You already know how the white owners who hire coaches feel about black players," he continued. "It’s the same way they feel about black coaches."

"The difference is that they need the black players to make the league work they don’t need the black coaches in order for it to work," Bennett added.

Bennett then continued, "The fact is the nfl, much like this country, was built on the backs of black athletes. And they used the same systems that were designed during slavery and slave trade as a model to build it."

The football player then urged the need for more black coaches and black league officials, so that the "forever jobs" in sports weren't only "dominated by white people."

"We need more black coaches leading black men. And the league as stopped many players from experiencing that with blatant racism and prejudice when hiring coaches," he said. "You can play for our team but you can’t lead our teams."

Bennett's statements come amid widespread unrest and social reckoning over Floyd's murder, as outraged Americans and people around the world protest systemic racism.

Formal criminal charges have been filed in Minnesota against the four policemen involved in Floyd's death on May 25 death, according to a warrant reviewed by PEOPLE.

The charges against Thomas Lane, 37; Tou Thao, 34; and J. Alexander Kueng, 26, were confirmed at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. The new charges are on aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter. They come five days after murder and manslaughter charges were announced against former officer Derek Chauvin, the man who kneeled on Floyd's neck.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero ( which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement ( provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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