The 31-year-old uses his freakish wingspan, strength and violent hands to be an unblockable force for Seattle’s defense. Bennett is a player opposing teams have to scheme against offensively, as he is a force both as a pass rusher and as a run-stopping edge defender. He has averaged seven sacks per-16 games throughout his career and has eight forced-fumbles in his nine seasons in the NFL. Since he joined the team in 2013, the Seahawks have consistently had one of the top-10 scoring defenses in the NFL. This defense has helped Seattle go to two Super Bowls since the addition of Bennett, winning Super Bowl 48 in 2014.

Bennett has received much more national attention as of late, but not for his exceptional play. Before over 130 players, executives and coaches held protests during the national anthem Sept. 25, there were only around a dozen players choosing to protest police violence and racial inequality in the country.

These protests were of course started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016. Bennett was one of the first dozen this season.

He is an African American man whose interests off the field have seemed to gain more attention since an incident with the Las Vegas police Aug 27. Bennett was pulled over after officers heard gunfire in the area.

He claims the officers pointed a gun in his face and threatened him while using excessive force in his arrest for no reason other than that he is black. Bennett said the entire experience was “a traumatic experience for me and my entire family”.

Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Review-Journal

Since this incident, the Las Vegas Police Department has denied many of Bennett’s claims and has stated that race had nothing to do with the incident. This traumatizing threat to his own life, as well as the Charlottesville rallies in August, moved Bennett to make a decision scrutinized by many. He has sat on the bench during the national anthem since the Seahawks’ first game in Green Bay Sept. 10. He was joined by offensive lineman Kenny Britt, who placed his hand on Bennett’s shoulder to show support.

With Bennett being one of the initial post-Kaepernick protestors and speaking out more on issues of equality in the country, he’s become one of the NFL’s most influential figures. He is both an activist for Kaepernick and other players’ right to protest and speaks about the Israeli-Palestein conflict in many public forums. He has even landed on the Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans. With exemplary play on the field and a well-spoken, rational voice off the field, Michael Bennett is becoming more and more of a recognizable player in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of The Root.