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Seahawks DE Michael Bennett prods NFL stars to speak out for social change

Bennett says black NFL players need to stop "sitting back and just taking the dollars."

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Following a spree of violence between the African-American community and law enforcement earlier this month, NBA star Carmelo Anthony called on his peers to advocate for social change. Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett is echoing Anthony's words.

In an interview during training camp Saturday, the outspoken Bennett chastised other black players across the league for staying silent on the issues of racial strife and problems that plague the NFL -- such as head trauma and the details of the collective bargaining agreement.

"The women and WNBA have really stood up for what they want, and I think that it's time for the players in the NFL," Bennett said via ESPN, referencing the WNBA players who recently wore black warmup shirts to support the Black Lives Matter movement. "But a lot of things in the NFL are so broken. You don't see a lot of great players talking about things socially, whether it's Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, all of these guys, they're white. They don't have to deal with the things that we deal with as black players, so it's not as many."

At the ESPY Awards this month, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Anthony opened up the show with a powerful message about gun violence and police brutality. Bennett says he would like to see his fellow NFL stars band together to make a similar statement.

"In the NBA, everybody is standing up for it, so the greatest players are in the forefront of the movement. Here in the NFL, the greatest players aren't in the forefront of the movement," Bennett said. "Whether it's the CBA, whether it's things going on with trying to change the way — concussions. The greatest players aren't involved like LeBron James, Chris Paul and all these guys [in the NBA]. Our great players are sitting back just 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."

According to reports, Bennett later called Newton to apologize for singling him out.

This isn't the first time this summer that Bennett, 30, has criticized athletes for their lack of social involvement. He lambasted Stephen Curry a few weeks ago for charging kids exorbitant prices to attend his basketball camp in Hawaii, where Bennett lives with his wife. He continued with that theme Saturday, saying athletes should take advantage of their bully pulpit to make a difference rather than extra cash.

"As athletes, we need to start controlling that influence and keep it positive and not always about dollar to dollar. Finding a way to make something sustainable so when we're in the community, make a sustainable event, make a sustainable thing in the community, not so much about money," Bennett said. "That's the whole thing I had about the thing with Stephen Curry. It was not about the money aspect. It was about creating something for kids where they can learn and want to give back."

The police killings of African-Americans Alton Sterling and Philando Castile as well as the subsequent assassinations of law enforcement officials in Dallas and Baton Rouge compelled the typically apolitical Michael Jordan to donate $2 million to groups dedicated to ending police-related shootings. The groundwork is set for others to follow suit.