NFC defensive end Michael Bennett (72) and cornerback Richard Sherman (25) of the Seattle Seahawks .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Three of the NFL players who were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday as part of a campaign to showcase the country’s “true face” to the world pulled out of the trip, explaining that they do not want to be “used” by the Israeli government.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was the first to pull out of the tour planned for 11 football stars in a joint initiative between the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.
The trip will include visits to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Christian sites and according to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is supposed to give the players a balanced picture of Israel.
Bennett first tweeted a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., saying “I’m not going to Israel,” before explaining his decision in length late Friday.
“I was excited to see this remarkable and historic part of the world with my own eyes. I was not aware until reading this article about the trip in The Times of Israel that my itinerary was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purposes of making me, in the words of a government official, an ‘influencer and opinion-former’ who would then be ‘an ambassador of good will.’ “I will not be used in such a manner,” Bennett added.
“When I go to Israel — and I do plan to go — it will be to see not only Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza so I can see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives.”
After he published the letter, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills retweeted Bennett, saying “Couldn’t have said it any better. I’m in!” Bennett’s brother Martellus, who was part of the New England Patriots team that won the Super Bowl last week, also joined the boycott.
Michael Bennett added in his letter that one of his heroes was Muhammad Ali, who “always stood strongly with the Palestinian people,” and said that he wants to be a “voice for the voiceless.”
“I cannot do that by going on this kind of a trip to Israel,” he said.