Former Seahawk Michael Bennett's new book, Things That Make White People Uncomfortable, written in collaboration with the Nation's Dave Zirin, is equal parts sports autobiography and political treatise. Bennett's first-person account of his journey to the National Football League and increasingly into a life of activism offers a take on sports and politics so shockingly honest that it makes sense it would emerge from this era of Seahawks football. As Bennett writes about at length in the book, the Pete Carroll–led Seahawks are unusual within the NFL for their willingness to have players push the political conversation.
Of course, right before the book's release, Bennett was traded by the Seahawks to the Philadelphia Eagles. The sections where he expounds on his time with the team now feel like a eulogy for a rare golden era in a brutal sport. This is a must-read book for Seahawks fans.
Throughout, Bennett gives insight into the locker-room dynamics of a team that has prided itself on nurturing loud voices in a way that is unique within the sport. He also pulls back the veil on some of the relationships within the team. He goes out of his way to praise Russell Wilson, which is surprising given the whispers around the team of a rift between Wilson and the defensive stars. But it is a bittersweet read in that some of the praise Bennett gives Carroll and the Seahawks organization already feels like it is from a bygone era.
Even for a Seahawks fan, Bennett's account of his time at Texas A&M University makes up the most compelling portion of the book. These passages combine his deft insider insights into the strange niche that athletes fill in our society with his strong political acumen. In a particularly revealing chapter titled "The NCAA Will Give You PTSD," Bennett leverages his personal ordeals and fearlessly calls out the entire system to expose the hypocrisy of the student-athlete experience.
As Things That Make White People Uncomfortable proceeds, it dives more deeply and explicitly into the political, tackling subjects like Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick, racial slurs, toxic masculinity, and police brutality. As he does so, it feels like he's constructing his arguments to serve as a gateway for the average NFL fan to learn more about social justice. Bennett name-drops writers like Angela Davis in a way that could totally lead readers who are unfamiliar with her work to google her and learn more.
Or so I'd love to imagine. However, I do not know if we live in a world where that will happen. Bennett himself has become so politicized over the past year (look no further than the viral Photoshopped image of him burning a flag in the Seahawks locker room to find the depth of this insanity). In my experience, the mere mention of Bennett on Twitter brings a horde of trolls into your mentions.
Sports are politics now, and Bennett can no longer be stealthy in his activism. He knows this, hence the title of the book. Bennett is on the front line of a culture war, meaning that this book is less likely to make it into the hands of politically latent football fans. And that's something that makes this white person uncomfortable.