Unfiltered athletes: potential drawbacks

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett made headlines after stating a controversial opinion regarding the NCAA on ESPN’s E:60 last Wednesday.

Bennett, when asked about whether college football players should be paid, said, “Hell yeah, college players should get paid. NCAA gets paid. Rose Bowl gets paid. Everybody gets paid except the people making the product. In some countries, they call that slavery.”

Michael Bennett is often praised for being a beacon of honesty in a sea of clichéd, boring athlete opinions. While Bill Belichick and Russell Wilson sleepwalk through a press conference with scripted and completely uninteresting answers, Bennett isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

The problem is that he thinks he’s a lot smarter than he really is. His takes are often strong, but they usually fail to see any nuance in an issue. Comparing college football to slavery is such an absurd statement that it inhibits the very important conversation of college athlete compensation from even happening.

When you start a conversation with that kind of outrageous exaggeration, the other side won’t listen. The conversation dies before it could even begin.

Bennett’s willingness to provide us with his candid thoughts has put me in a bit of a conundrum.

On one hand, I’ve always wanted athletes to break away from their scripted and trite phrases to give us their unfiltered thoughts. I’ve always loved watching Phil Mickelson’s press conferences because I know he will give us a couple great takes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Marshawn Lynch’s reluctance to talk to the media annoyed me because I wanted an insight into his personality.

On the other hand, sometimes the less you know about someone can be for the best—especially when it comes to athletes. I was once a big Michael Bennett fan—he’s a fantastic defensive end and he has a vibrant personality on the field. Now, after numerous instances where his beliefs have contradicted with mine, love has been lost.

As a fan, I’ve come to believe that both roads have their pros and cons. For every Bennett fan who loves his honest approach, there’s another who is turned off by his controversial opinions. For every Russell fan who loves his professional answers, there’s another who thinks he’s a boring robot with no personality.

If an athlete wants to choose the road of candor, I just hope they don’t follow Bennett’s approach of firing off a hot take that isn’t rooted in logic or reason.

People are more accepting of different points of view if the opinion is grounded in reality and expressed with degrees of nuance. By all means, have a strong take, but please make sure it’s not a ridiculous exaggeration or else you’ll look like a fool.