NFL player cancels participation in Israel trip

Seattle Seahawks' Michael Bennett won't participate in Israel trip, doesn't want to be a "goodwill ambassador".

Ben Ariel ,

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett

A football player with the Seattle Seahawks has announced he would not take part in an NFL trip to Israel that is sponsored by the Israeli government.

The Seahawks’ defensive end Michael Bennett announced his withdrawal from the trip late last week, claiming he objects to being co-opted as a “goodwill ambassador”, The Guardian reports.

Bennett first tweeted a picture of Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael with the caption: “I’m not going to Israel.” He then explained his motivation with a longer post.

“I was not aware 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 goodwill,’” he wrote, according to The Guardian.

“I will not be used in such a manner. When I do 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,” he added.

“I want to be a voice for the voiceless, and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel,” stated Bennett.

The Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett also said he would not be going on the trip, according to The Guardian. The NFL players will arrive in Israel on Monday, and a friendly game with players from the Israeli Football Association is scheduled for February 18 in Jerusalem.

The report further noted that a group of activists recently wrote an open letter urging the players to “consider the political ramifications of a propaganda trip organized by the Israeli government”.

The letter said the visit “aims to prevent players from seeing the experience of Palestinians living under military occupation”.

Activists from the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have in recent years tried to dissuade celebrities from visiting Israel.

The phenomenon is very common with musicians who are pressured to cancel their shows in Israel.

Many of the calls to boycott Israel have come from Roger Waters, the former Pink Floyd star who is notorious for his anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rants and who has repeatedly condemned his colleagues who associate with Israel.

In November, Waters wrote an open letter to electronic music duo The Chemical Brothers, urging them to cancel a concert in Israel.