GREEN BAY — Martellus Bennett had been looking forward to this week ever since the NFL schedule came out. Now, he’s just looking forward to giving his big brother Michael a hug.
His Green Bay Packers hosting Michael’s Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field on the NFL’s opening Sunday was supposed to be the perfect time for an unofficial family reunion — with their parents, Michael’s wife and their three daughters, Martellus’ wife, Siggi, and daughter, Jett, all coming to Green Bay for the game.
But in the wake of a frightening incident in which Michael was detained by Las Vegas police following the Floyd Mayweather-Connor McGregor fight on Aug. 26 — an incident which came to light Wednesday when Michael detailed it in a lengthy statement on social media — Martellus is now eager to see Michael face-to-face, instead of via FaceTime.
“It gets emotional when you think about it, but sometimes, a hug is the best thing you can give,” Martellus said after practice Wednesday, tears welling in his eyes and his voice cracking. “You just think, ‘What if?’ You know? Two seconds this way, two seconds that way, the whole thing is different.
“So for me, I’ll just be happy to see my brother. Because there’s a chance I couldn’t see him.”
According to Michael’s statement, officers pointed their guns at him “for doing nothing more than simply being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time” before handcuffing him in the wake of a disturbance at a nightclub where a number of patrons thought they’d heard gun shots.
A video by TMZ Sports Wednesday showed a police officer putting handcuffs on Michael, who at one point is heard yelling to the officer, “I wasn’t doing nothing, man! I was here with my friends. They told us to get out; everybody ran. Can you answer my question, sir?”
When Martellus saw the video on his iPhone before practice, he said he had to excuse himself from a meeting to regain his composure.
“I didn’t even know there was a video,” Martellus said. “I had to walk out of meetings because I broke down crying, just thinking about what could have happened, what could have been. It was just so close. You never know these days.”
In the statement, Michael wrote that one officer pointed his gun at him and warned him that he would “blow my (expletive) head off” if he moved. Speaking to reporters at the Seahawks’ practice facility Wednesday, Michael called the incident “a traumatic experience for me and my family.”
“It sucks that in the country that we live in now, sometimes you get profiled for the color of your skin,” Bennett said in a news conference. “It’s a tough situation for me. Do I think every police officer is bad? No, I don’t believe that. Do I believe there’s some people out there that judge people on the color of their skin? I do believe that.”
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said during a news briefing Wednesday that his department has launched an internal investigation into Michael’s allegations. He said the incident began with an active shooter call to a casino, where officers encountered many people running for cover. Michael was seen “crouched down behind a gaming machine as officers approached” before running away from the scene, McMahill said.
“Due to Bennett’s actions and the information the officers had at the time, they believed that Bennett may have been involved in the shooting and they gave chase,” McMahill said.
McMahill said Michael was detained for 10 minutes, that he was not racially profiled and that in talking with officers he said he “had no problem with what the officers did, just the one that he claimed the officer had pointed a gun at his head.”
Martellus said his brother, who is 15 months older than him, called shortly after the incident, after Martellus and his Packers teammates arrived home from their preseason game at Denver.
“Anytime you get a call from anyone — a friend, a brother, your mother — and they’re hysterical, the first thing you try to do is to calm them down. The only thing you care about is their well-being,” Martellus said. “You don’t really care what the story is or what’s happening. It’s like, ‘How can I give them a place of peace to calm him down in the situation he’s in?’ For me as a brother, I’m one of the first people he called because we talk about everything all the time.”
Martellus said he and his brother FaceTime several times a week and also call each other frequently. Calling Michael his “best friend,” he said their conversations don’t cease on weeks they face each other, in part because their children love their uncles.
One of the few times Martellus smiled during his 20-minute conversation with reporters was when he said Michael’s girls call him “Uncle Smarty, because I’m the smartest person they know. I just tell them they haven’t been outside enough and met enough people yet if I’m the smartest person they know. My brother needs better friends in Seattle. But I just love them.”
While Michael has been protesting racial inequality by sitting during the pre-game national anthem, Martellus said he had no plans to do the same before Sunday’s game, although he may post another political cartoon to his Instagram account, as he did last month.
For now, Martellus said he’s thinking more about Saturday, when the Bennett family will be getting together after the Seahawks arrive.
“My family is always going to come first before football. A lot of people say that I don’t love football because I love my family more, but I think that’s just idiotic,” Martellus said. “Life goes so fast and seasons go so fast, you don’t get to spend as much time with family.
“So it’s pretty good to have so much family coming to town this weekend, being able to see him and have dinner with him and talk to him and different things like that. And then go out there and try to kick his ass.”