Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Ex-NFL Star Says Trump Attacking Black 'Culture'

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJuly 25, 2018

New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett speaks with reporters in the teams' locker room before a scheduled NFL football practice, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne/Associated Press

Martellus Bennett doesn't hold back on Trump or the NFL. Terrell Owens' snub of the Hall of Fame makes some sense to one Hall of Famer. And Johnny Manziel could find himself in trouble again if he's not careful. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

   

1. Agent of Change

Martellus Bennett won a Super Bowl, made a Pro Bowl and during much of his time in the NFL was one of the leading social activist voices in all of sports. Now retired, the 10-year veteran tight end continues to run his creative agency and just released a kids book, Hey A.J., It's Bedtime!, another chapter in the A.J. universe that gives kids of color role models in book form. (In August, Bennett's group will also launch an animated series around the character called The Fantastical Adventures of A.J.)

Bennett is most fascinating to me, however, when talking about the NFL, and in this case, President Donald Trump.

After the NFL suffered yet another Twitter assault from the president over the past few days, I asked Bennett why he believes Trump keeps fighting with the league.

"It's the easiest way for him to attack the culture of black people," Bennett said. "He sees the black athlete as someone that black people look up to. So he thinks you can attack black culture by attacking black NFL players.

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"Also, attacking black players helps him with his base.

"I think, too, maybe there's no rhyme or reason. Maybe he's just an assh--e."

Bennett isn't shy with his opinions now, nor was he when he played. And since he is only a few months removed from the game, who better to ask about some of the bigger storylines of the season ahead?

Jameis Winston: "I'd like to see how things ... play out. ... He has a similar situation to that of Ben Roethlisberger (who was twice accused of rape). Not the exact thing I know, but he will face a similar type of scrutiny. I'm interested to see how he handles that scrutiny.

The Cowboys: "I want to see how Dak [Prescott] does without Dez [Bryant]. I think people are going to be surprised with how much they miss Dez.

The 49ers: "Let's see how Jimmy [Garoppolo] does once he faces a game plan from defenses all year. It's different when you face teams who focus on you week in and week out."

The Seahawks: "Things in Seattle might be the most fascinating to me. I don't think Earl Thomas will be back. There's a lot of pressure on Pete Carroll and the coaching staff. The whole team has changed."

Bennett isn't for everyone. Packers fans are still upset about his brief tenure in Green Bay. But he was still one of the more important figures in recent NFL history. Not because of what he did on the field, but because of the creativity he showed off the field, his outspokenness and his dedication to advocate for social justice off it. This isn't the last we've heard from him.

   

2. The Falcons should have seen this coming

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons after the game against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport was the first to report that Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was going to hold out of training camp until his contract is reworked. This was one of the most predictable events of the offseason.

Jones has been dropping hints for months. He's also really sharp and knows the business of football. Just like Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, who is also holding out.

Like Bell, and other star players, Jones can see the money quarterbacks, and owners, are making. Those players aren't just going to sit tight anymore and hope their level of compensation becomes commensurate. They're going to use their power (limited as it is) to get as much money as they can when they have leverage.

   

3. Still no word on Dez

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 17: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys leaves the field after a win against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 17, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is still a free agent, and there remains no indication of where he might play.

Teams tell me Bryant seems content to wait for a situation to open that he likes, that he doesn't feel any pressure to move quickly and that money isn't a factor.

So, hold on, fantasy football owners, as it may be a few weeks before Bryant signs.

   

4. It's complicated

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 9: Terrell Owens #81 of the Buffalo Billls looks on against the Tennessee Titans during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium on August 9, 2009 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Terrell Owens decided to skip the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. With a few exceptions (including me), few around the game have backed Owens' stance. But one influential Hall of Famer understands, and supports, what Owens is doing.

As longtime linebacker Harry Carson told Peter King for his "Football Morning in America" column:

"I don't know why Terrell Owens has chosen not to go to Canton this year. But I fully support his right to do whatever he wants to. It's his life.

"After I retired and I was up for the Hall and I didn't get in for a few years, I would get introduced at banquets and other events. I remember standing up at the Waldorf Astoria in New York at a function, and they said, 'A nine-time Pro Bowl player ... who SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame, Harry Carson.' ... I was never really angry about it, but I saw it affected my family. ... So [in 2004] I wrote to the Hall and said, 'Please remove my name from consideration for the Hall of Fame in the future.' ...

"So when I made it in 2006, I felt I had divorced myself from this, and I had no intention of being involved in the ceremony. But my fiance—now my wife—said to me, 'It's not about you. It's about your family. It's about Mr. Mara.' The Giants' owner, Wellington Mara, had been a staunch advocate. She was right. I relented.

"I am glad I did. What I learned is it is about your family, your coaches, your teachers."

Carson's words should make everyone involved in this stop and think. Getting snubbed carries an emotional cost, and one that takes time to sort out.

   

5. Asking for trouble?

REGINA, SK - JULY 05:  Johnny Manziel #2 of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on the field during pregame warmup before the game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on July 5, 2018 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/G
Brent Just/Getty Images

If you've ever been to Montreal (Americans love you, Canada), then you know what I'm about to say is true: It's one of the best, wildest, craziest party places in the world.

It ranks right up there with Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand, Las Vegas and Poughkeepsie.

In all seriousness, Montreal is a fun town.

And Johnny Manziel was just traded there.

On the field, he'll get quite the test in a Canadian Football League that is far better than most Americans know. Off it, Manziel will face a challenge to not succumb to the temptations that sank his career before.

Players are allowed to party. Of course. But partying was much of Manziel's undoing, along with the fact he wasn't any good at the professional game.

Now, he's in one of the party capitals of North America.

Let's hope, for his sake, he really has turned a page in his life.

   

6. Is the Browns' future as bright as they believe?

Ron Schwane/Associated Press

Considering the recent history of the franchise, asking if the Browns are a playoff team is like asking if the coyote will ever beat the sheepdog.

Odds are they won't be this year, but I've rarely seen such an optimistic Browns preseason. Newly added Jarvis Landry publicly stated he thinks they will reach the postseason for the first time since 2002.

One thing is certain: This is, easily, the most talented Browns team we've seen in years.

Could the Browns surprise people? Hell, yes, they could. But a playoff team? Um...

   

7. Nobody does it better

TOPSHOT - Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Head coach Bill Belichick (R) looks on  after defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

Obviously, we know the Patriots have been dominant—five Super Bowl trophies since 2001 are testament to that—but to get a sense of just how much better they have been than their competition, consider this staggering statistic from King: From 2003 to 2017, the Patriots were 80 games better than the next-best AFC East team in that time frame, the Jets. New England was 189-51 during that period and won 14 of 15 possible division titles.

Eighty. Games.

   

8. A monster payday is on the way for Aaron Rodgers

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

Everything I hear says the Packers and Aaron Rodgers will agree to a contract extension before the season begins.

This isn't a guarantee, but it's what people I trust are saying.

And if/when it happens, Rodgers is likely to become the highest-paid player in the sport. The Packers may not be happy about such an exorbitant sum, but they will pay it, because they'd be foolish not to.

   

9. Another running back looks to cash in

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals looks for yards during a run while playing the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

David Johnson reported to Cardinals camp this week after missing all but one game last season with a wrist injury suffered in Week 1. While there have been reports Johnson would get a new contract before the season begins, it hasn't happened—yet.

But Johnson is in the last year of his rookie deal, which will pay him $1.9 million this season. And while last year was lost to injury, he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage the previous season and scored a league-high 20 touchdowns. Still only 26, the odds are a guy who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns in 2016 will be making a lot more than that before this season is through.

   

10. Tony Sparano was special

Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Whenever you wanted to talk about the intricacies of offensive line play, no one could explain them better, or in easier-to-understand terms, than Tony Sparano.

The Viking offensive line coach, and former Dolphins head coach, died Sunday at the age of 56. His death, due to heart disease, prompted an outpouring of memories from players and coaches around the league. Not only was Sparano well liked, but he was also deeply respected.

The game will miss him.

       

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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