HOUSTON — While some of his teammates sidestepped questions about their relationship with President Trump during Super Bowl Media Night on Monday, Martellus Bennett jumped right in. Bennett made a pointed statement when he said he was unlikely to visit the White House if the Patriots win the Super Bowl.
“Most likely not, because I don’t support the person in it,” Bennett told the Detroit Free Press.
The Patriots’ connections to Trump are well-documented. Bennett, however, has been critical of Trump on social media and is not shy about making his opinions known.
Bennett said he feels that the majority of NFL players are too worried about the financial costs of being outspoken.
“All the players are worried about their personal brands,” Bennett said. “I feel like a lot of players throughout every situation, they have chances to really impact the community with things that they say.
“So many people are looking to them for encouragement, for example, for a chance to promote change, but for a lot of guys, it comes down to a dollar — what this brand or this company might say or how I’m going to look if I speak out. A lot of guys just aren’t educated enough to do it.”
Bennett said he empathizes with players who worry that they’ll get “crucified” in the public eye or on social media for talking about controversial topics, but it still frustrates him that many players are so worried about perception that they’ll pass up what he sees as an opportunity to make a positive impact.
“Sometimes it frustrates me because if you have a chance to change the world, [then] change the world. You know what I’m saying? It’s not like, oh, here’s my chance to change the world and I’m going to pass that up. If I have a chance to change the world then I’m going to do everything I can to change the world,” Bennett said.
“And for me, everyone has a different contribution. I feel like for me it’s laughter. So I try to tell as many jokes as possible to make as many people laugh as possible or write stories that are funny. I like to create, so that creativity is my gift so I try to give it back to the world. That’s what one of my gifts are.
“So I think when you have a chance to impact the world, you go for it no matter what anyone says, what anyone thinks about you personally. If you believe in something and you truly have morals and standards and your own ethic code, then I think you go for it.”
Bennett said he isn’t afraid of public blowback when he speaks his mind because he’s comfortable with who he is. He said some athletes don’t speak out more often because they aren’t groomed or encouraged to see their ability to do valuable work off the field.
“I don’t really care what anyone has to say about me. I’m OK with who I am as a person,” Bennett said. “Some guys are not because they don’t know who they are yet. And it’s unfortunate, because our identities become sports, so you just become a football player from a young age and everyone treats you like you’re the No. 1 player in the world. I was from Texas, I was the No. 1 football player in Texas so, it’s like, they talk to you like that.
“But if you start to believe that’s who you are, you never really go on that personal journey of figuring out what you represent, who you are, and you’ll always care what everyone else said because everyone else told you what you were.”
A boisterous crowd gathered at Patriot Place in Foxborough on Monday morning to see the Patriots off to Houston.
Former Patriots Jermaine Wiggins and Scott Zolak got the crowd fired up, setting the stage for appearances by Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Matthew Slater.
“Now it’s starting to feel like the Super Bowl,” Brady said, following a chorus of the customary “Bra-dy, Bra-dy, Bra-dy” chants.
“This journey started in training camp — well, it started long before that, but I know a lot of you fans were out there at training camp practice. We had 20,000 people out there when we started, and it looks like we’re getting there today.
“Thank you, guys. It’s been a great season, and we’ve accomplished a lot, but we still have one more to go. It’s going to be the toughest one we’ve had all year, but we’re excited for the opportunity.
“Rest up, hydrate, and get ready for Sunday, because it will be a hell of a game.”
“We believe in our hearts that we have the best fans in all of sports,” Slater said. “We’re taking a team down here to Houston that you can all be proud of, not only for the 16 wins we’ve acquired, but for the men we have on this team.”
The rally also gave the Patriots a platform to push former defensive back Ty Law’s candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“He’s the man that taught me how to dance,” Kraft said. “He’s also one of the greatest players to ever come through our system.”
The Patriots arrived in Houston late Monday afternoon. The Atlanta Falcons touched down there on Sunday.