10-year NFL tight end Martellus Bennett, who retired in 2017, was invited to speak at an “Athletes + Activism” forum hosted by The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill in Washington on Thursday. He did not hesitate to take on tough issues, calling for white quarterbacks to step up on issues of race and calling out domestic abusers in the NFL by name.

Bennett called on prominent white quarterbacks to join the movement catalyzed by Colin Kaepernick to draw attention to racial inequality and social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.

“If Peyton Manning joined the conversation, the conversation in the NFL would change,” Bennett said. “If Drew Brees came in and really joined the conversation, it would change. Tom Brady. All these great white heroes that they have running around, throwing the football — if they jump into the conversation, it would be so much bigger.”

“If they were to take a knee with Colin Kaepernick, that conversation would totally change,” Bennett said. “If Tom Brady took a knee, white America would be like, ‘Oh my God. What is this that Tom Brady’s talking about?’

“They would start doing research and would join in the conversation. It would pique their interest. But since it’s a black guy taking a knee, it’s like, ‘Alright, these guys, here he goes again. It’s another one of these guys out here doing this.’”

As Bennett pointed out, it’s the quarterbacks in the NFL who have real power.

“Chris Long [joined] the conversation, but he’s a defensive end,” Bennett said. “I love Chris Long. Chris Long is my boy. Shoutout to Chris. But it’s not the position.”

Bennett also touched on Domestic violence. 

“If you hit a woman you should not be playing football,” Bennett said. “There’s not any excuse for child abuse. I don’t whip my daughter. … Hitting a child to me at this position is ridiculous.

“Watching the video of Ray Rice. I wanted to choke the s— out of Ray Rice. I wanted to punch him in the face. If they’re on my team, I have issues with these guys. I’m gonna tackle them every single day.”

Bennett is never afraid to tackle a controversy head on. 

That could be why he bounced around a lot. 

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