Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills is one of a half-dozen NFL players who pulled out of what was supposed to be a goodwill trip to Israel but instead became the target of a political tussle.
The players declined to travel after Israel’s ministry for strategic affairs and public diplomacy sent a news release saying the visit would include 11 NFL players, or “influencers” who would be “goodwill ambassadors” upon returning to the United States.
That upset Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett, the first to pull out, feeling he was being used as a PR pawn against the Palestinians.
“I will not be used in such a manner,” he tweeted.
Stills retweeted an open letter from thenation.com imploring the players to pull out of the trip. The letter included the headline, “Palestinians have for decades been fighting policies similar to the ones people are protesting in cities across the United States.”
Stills, who is becoming a free agent, has been no stranger to those political statements, kneeling during the national anthem this season along with teammate Michael Thomas to support 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s stance against social oppression. Stills’ community awareness is such that he received the team’s Nat Moore Community Service Award this past season.
The open letter called the visit “a propaganda trip.” Its supporters include entertainers Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover.
Also pulling out were New England’s Martellus Bennett, Seattle’s Cliff Avril, San Francisco’s Carlos Hyde and Denver’s Justin Forsett. Retired linebacker Kirk Morrison also did not travel.
Former University of Miami defensive lineman Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals did make the trip along with Tennessee’s Delanie Walker, Philadelphia’s Mychal Kendricks, Oakland’s Dan Williams and New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan (not to be confused with Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron).
Michael Bennett wrote, “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’.
“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. I want to be a voice for the voiceless, and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel.”
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