After seeing Chance the Rapper donate $1 million to Chicago’s flailing public school system, Michael Bennett, pro bowl defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, had a revelation.
He realized that his fame and wealth could help to transform society.
To that end, he pledged “to donate all of my endorsement money in 2017 to help rebuild minority communities through s.t.e.a.m programs, as well as initiatives that directly affect women of color in hopes that we can create more opportunities for our youth and build a brighter future.”
“I’ll be joining [Chance] by investing in the future of our youth,” Bennett wrote in a statement. ”The system is failing our kids, and it will be up to the community and our leaders to help keep the hope alive by focusing on improving our education system and the future of our kids. Any company that decides to invest in me, just know that you’ll be investing in opportunities and providing inspiration for these families — many who feel unnoticed or go unmentioned.”
He will also be giving 50% of the proceeds from his jersey sales to inner-city garden projects to promote healthy living and food security.
Bennett didn’t stop there, either. He used his moment of outsized generosity to call on his fellow athletes.
“I’m asking all professional athletes to join me by donating a portion of your endorsements this year to a cause of your choice,” he wrote. “We can make a difference. It’s up to us to help plant seeds of hope and help fuel the future.”
The NFL is not especially known for political activism. In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ignited a movement when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
Other NFL players joined him, but it remained a mostly isolated endeavor.
Kaepernick went on to speak eloquently about injustice and to donate $1 million to communities in need.
Bennett appears to be following in these activist footsteps. In the past, Bennett has focused on combatting childhood obesity through his family foundation. Now he’s tackling broader issues of inequality.
On International Women’s Day, he released a beautiful statement.
“This issue is a lot bigger than my dreams for my own family,” he wrote. “It’s about the women across the earth who are suffering: women who are less worried about a glass ceiling than they are about a collapsing floor. It’s about women of color across the earth who live on less than one dollar a day. It’s about all women who are subject to sexual assault and violence.”