TEL AVIV – (Wire Service Reports) – Only five NFL players arrived on a sponsored trip to Israel after six players decided to skip the goodwill tour due to human rights concerns.
The five players arriving Tuesday in Israel were Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Dan Williams, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks, according to The Times of Israel.
Michael Bennett (72)
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett decided last week to pull out of the trip. He accused the government of trying to use him for public-relations purposes and cited sympathy for the Palestinians.
Bennett wrote “I will not be used” by the Israeli government in a statement Friday night on Twitter.
An open letter from renowned musicians, artists and activists, among others, was posted last week on The Nation and asked the NFL players to “consider the political ramifications of a propaganda trip organized by the Israeli government that aims to prevent players from seeing the experience of Palestinians living under military occupation.”
Other NFL players followed in skipping the trip, including Bennett’s brother, New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett.
Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril also didn’t make the trip, along with Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde and Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett.
The five players making the trip were present at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital on Tuesday, one of the planned stops on the seven-day tour. Other visits include sites in Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea, as well as Christian sites in the Galilee. The players will also head to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the political climate continues to scorch the NFL’s elite athletes.
Despite his well-documented friendship with President Donald Trump, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said he doesn’t have an issue with his teammates skipping the team’s White House visit.
“Everybody has their own choice,” Brady told Pro Football Talk.
After beating the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl LI, six Patriots players — Martellus Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, Chris Long and Alan Branch — said they would not attend the traditional White House celebration.
Brady did not make the trip to Washington D.C. for the Patriots’ celebration of their Super Bowl XLIX victory over the Seattle Seahawks in 2015 when President Barack Obama was in office, citing a prior commitment.