Michael Bennett boycotts trip, says he won't be used by Israel

Michael Bennett enjoyed his brother's recent Super Bowl victory along with actor Mark Wahlberg.

Story highlights

  • Three players not going on trip to Israel, one cites pregant wife
  • Israel official reportedly said he hope players would become 'goodwill ambassadors'

(CNN)Michael Bennett, a Pro Bowl defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, is one of the NFL's most outspoken players on social issues.

And once again he is in the middle of a controversy after announcing he was withdrawing from a overseas trip hosted by the Israeli government.
    Bennett will be joined on the sidelines by at least one other player who objects to what the players say is Israel using them as political tools.
    Bennett, whose brother, Martellus plays for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, tweeted Friday that he had been looking forward to the trip next week.
    But he read an article in an Israeli newspaper, he said, where a Israel's Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan was quoted as saying: "The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport."
    BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and is a movement that aims to end what it sees as "international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians."
    Another Israeli official said he hoped the players would become ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.
    It caused Bennett to change his mind.
    "I will not be used in such a way," he wrote.
    Bennett ended with a quote from John Carlos, the Olympic sprinter who famously protested on a medals podium in 1968 with a raised gloved fist.
    "There is no partial commitment to justice. You're either in or you're out," Bennett said. "Well, I'm in."
    Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills retweeted Bennett and wrote: 'Couldn't have said it any better. I'm in!"
    CNN called Bennett on Saturday but got no response.
    A spokesman for Erdan told CNN the minister had no comment on the matter.
    Rabbi Abraham Cooper from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based organization devoted to fighting anti-Semitism, said Bennett's cancellation was "very unfortunate," adding that "engagement, not boycotts, help forge real peace."

    Letter urges boycott

    The announcements follow an open letter in The Nation by activists, including Carlos and others, urging players to back out of the trip in support of human rights and justice.
    One of the groups that signed the letter was the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a nationwide coalition of hundreds of groups that says it is working for "freedom, justice and equality."
    "This trip is part of an Israeli government campaign to whitewash its ongoing denial of the rights of Palestinians. We wanted to tell these players: Don't let the Israeli government make you their tackling dummy and use you to push their agenda," Executive Director Yousef Munayyer said in an email Saturday.
    He said he hopes the other players reconsider.
    "I would also want them to keep in mind that they are being welcomed by the government of Israel - the same government that denies entry to Palestinians because of their identity - precisely to distract from those rights denials and discrimination," he said.
    The Times of Israel reported other players who are scheduled to make the trip are:
    • Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril
    • Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell
    • Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett
    • San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde
    • Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks
    • New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan
    • Former linebacker Kirk Morrison
    • Tennessee Titans wide receiver Delanie Walker
    • Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Dan Williams
    But Forsett tweeted Saturday that decided weeks ago that the trip was too close to the anticipated birth of his child, and he would not go.
    The Times and other Israeli media also reported that Martellus Bennett was supposed to be on the trip and was also boycotting. He hasn't said so on Twitter, but did retweet his brother's post.

    BDS movement

    The letter is part of an international movement targeting the Israeli government and institutions with boycott, d