On Saturday, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett specifically called out Panthers quarterback Cam Newton as one of the league’s “great players” who are “just sitting back, taking the dollars.” As it turns out, the Seahawks tried to take those words out of Bennett’s mouth.
The reference to Cam Newton came from the story written by Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com. The reference to Cam Newton specifically was removed from the official transcript, with the key sentence saying only this: “Our great players are just sitting back, taking the dollars. …”
The actual quote? “Our great players are sitting back just taking the dollars, whether it’s Cam Newton, all these guys.”
It gets better (or worse, as the case may be). The reference to Newton (along with the surrounding context) was spliced out of the video of the Bennett press conference posted on the team’s official website. Go to the 6:25 mark. You’ll see that Bennett’s head blurs and the audio becomes glitchy. Here’s what was removed from the video: “Whether it’s Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, all of these guys, they don’t have to deal with the things that we deal with as black players so it’s not as many. In the NBA everybody is standing up for it, so the greatest players are in the forefront of movement, in the NFL, the greatest players aren’t in the forefront of the movement. Whether it’s the CBA, whether it’s things going on with trying to change the way – concussions. The greatest players are involved, like LeBron James, Chris Paul and all these guys. Our great players are just sitting back, taking the dollars, whether it’s Cam Newton, all these guys. They’re not really on the forefront of trying to change what’s going on.”
Absent the Newton reference, that passage made its way into the transcript; presumably, the decision to take even more out of the video was aimed at finding the best way to allow the resulting content to make sense — and to make the splicing seem less conspicuous.
Apart from the fact that this incident underscores the dangers of league- and team-owned media (without Kapadia’s blurb on ESPN.com, we wouldn’t have seen the Cam Newton comment), the question becomes why did the Seahawks remove the reference to Cam Newton? The obvious explanation is that they didn’t want to create a problem with one of Seattle’s most potent NFC rivals. The deeper explanation could be far more intriguing.
When Bennett says “[o]ur great players are just sitting back, taking the dollars, whether it’s Cam Newton, all these guys,” one of “these guys” who took even more dollars than Cam Newton plays for the Seahawks. And Russell Wilson is hardly a guy who takes stands on social issues.
Indeed, Russell Wilson’s press conference from that same day makes it clear he has no interest in doing anything other than striking a balance that keeps everyone happy and/or avoids making anyone upset — and generally keeping a profile no different than the one he’d occupy if he weren’t a professional athlete.
“Well I think we all have a responsibility,” Wilson said. “It’s not just on athletes, it’s not just on coaches, it’s not just on anybody in particular. It’s on all of us. I think ultimately it comes down to love and appreciating one another and respect for one another. Black lives obviously matter, of course they do and we have to treat it that way. Also, police lives matter too and everybody’s lives matter. I think about it like I don’t want it to be my kids one day, that’s really where you kind of feel it and that’s the way you have to think about it for all of us. It’s an appreciation for society, an appreciation for the country we live in, an appreciation for the towns and cities that we live in. Ultimately, it comes down to all of us to make sure we appreciate one another.”
The Seahawks apparently didn’t appreciate what Bennett said regarding Newton; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been scrubbed from the transcript and video. (PFT has requested an explanation from the Seahawks, who have not yet responded.)
It will be interesting to see whether Bennett’s views and Wilson’s approach create friction in the locker room. It also will be interesting to see whether Bennett continues to be vocal unless and until he gets the new contract he wants.