Martellus Bennett on How the NFL Discourages Individuality, Free-Thought (Exclusive)


During his NFL career, Martellus Bennett scored more than 30 touchdowns, accrued more than 4,500 receiving yards, won a Super Bowl with the 2016 New England Patriots and earned a Pro Bowl berth with the 2014 Chicago Bears.

Not bad for artist and writer. Bennett was in town last week to do a public reading of his new children’s book “Dear Black Boy,” at Open Books, a literacy non-profit in the west loop. A major point he emphatically made, over and over again, is that creating art and literature is more fun than sports. 

WE COULDN’T AGREE MORE! Coming to this event, going on this journalistic assignment (see part one of our exclusive interview and article at this link) was much more fun than covering a game. 

The event took place on the same day that my new book went live on Amazon, and I really couldn’t think of a better place to be than a book store, watching and listening to an author give a talk and do reading of his third book.

Bennett, who played football and basketball at Texas A&M before he was selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, did a Q&A with the crowd who came to see him, and during the session he described why being smart is both sexy and cool (around the 13 min mark in the file below)

Around the 45 min mark, he explains why football is just a side hustle, even for NFL players:

During our exclusive conversation with Bennett, he said that the NFL discourages free-thinking. It’s an idea that’s certainly verified by the long-standing practice of teams shying away from individuals who score “too high” on the Wonderlic IQ test at the NFL Draft.

As our conversation occurred on the eve of the NFL Draft, I asked him about any negative feedback he heard about his own draft stock as he went through the process.

“I think one thing they said, if you pay him, he’s a guy that might move out the country and never come back,” he responded.

“I guess that was one way of them saying that I was a thinker and an artsy guy, and a self thinker, I don’t know. I think it’s starting to change, but they don’t want free thinkers, it’s hard to coach 52 free-thinkers.”

Martellus Bennett maintains that NFL franchises want automatons that are all football all the time, not well rounded individuals with varied interests.

“It’s better to have a hive mind, and they’re afraid that if guys have interests in other things, then they’re not fully into football which I don’t think is a good balance of a human being. you can’t live, shit and breathe football every single day.”

“So I think the sport should turn into is the concept of turning boys into men and also growing full human beings

Bennett’s talents extend well beyond the football field—he’s a renaissance man in a league of his own. Bennett is an entrepreneur, animator, illustrator, author, app creator, creator, dreamer, and much more.

In 2014, Bennett founded The Imagination Agency, a multi-media creative production company focused on children’s literature, entertainment and education. 

 During the Q&A with the audience, the topic of Colin Kaepernick, #TakeAKnee and #BlackLivesMatter came up.

Bennett described the complete failure of the league in the way that they handled the situation.

“The NFL is a reactive place, it’s not a reactive place, so they react and then they’re like ‘oh shit, we messed up,’ and they mess up all the time, because it’s a bunch of men running a business, which is ridiculous, it’s never good when it’s a bunch of men at the top of a business, things are going to go bad at some point-

“I usually work with mostly women.”


To hear him read from his book, go to this link.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago, also contributes to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.


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