An outspoken activist athlete practically dares readers to think of professional football and its players in the same way again after finishing this book.
To say that Bennett, who co-authored this book with activist-minded Nation sports editor Zirin, has a chip on his shoulder would be an understatement. He was born to a teenage mother and raised by his father with his brother Martellus, also an outspoken pro football player. After the family split and he finished his college career at Texas A&M, he went undrafted by the NFL because he wasn’t considered “coachable”—i.e., he thought too independently and spoke his mind. He calls the NCAA “a gangster operation, a shakedown, and a system that works for everyone but the so-called student-athletes.” He notes how his brother has called the NFL “Niggas For Lease’—and that’s the most brutally honest thing I’ve ever heard”—later, though, he engages in a nuanced analysis of that hateful epithet and its variations. He compares the dehumanizing flesh market of the NFL combine to “slave auctions,” staunchly defends Colin Kaepernick as an athletic hero, and makes an impassioned defense for taking a knee or locking arms during the national anthem. In places, the book reads like the author is trying to be as provocative as possible, but he ultimately shows a commendable seriousness of purpose, providing a call to arms to other pro athletes to use their platforms for cultural responsibility and to fans to understand the human dimension of the NFL and the price paid for the on-field violence that serves as their entertainment. Bennett is particularly incisive on branding and on the conditional nature of fandom: “I’ll be a football player for just a few more years,” he writes, “but I’ll be Black forever.” He ends on a moving note of reconciliation, as he bridges the gulf with his birth mother and tries to get his father, stepmother, and brother to do the same.
A fiery memoir/manifesto by an athlete with his heart in the right place.