Three NFL players who were set to go on a tour of Israel have pulled out of the trip, saying they don’t want to be “used” by the Israeli government.
Eleven players were due to go on the trip, which is a joint-initiative between the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy. Taking in visits to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Christian sites, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said it was to give the players a balanced picture of Israel, while showcasing the country’s “true face” to the world.
However, a trio of the stars have since decided not to go, with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett the first to pull out. First tweeting a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., saying “I’m not going to Israel,” he then explained the reason for decisions. He said: “I was excited to see this remarkable and historic part of the world with my own eyes. I was not aware until reading this article about the trip in The Times of Israel 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 good will.’ “I will not be used in such a manner.
“When I 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.”
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills retweeted Bennett, adding: “Couldn’t have said it any better. I’m in!”, before Bennett’s brother Martellus, who was part of the New England Patriots team that won the Super Bowl last week, joined the boycott.
Adding how one of his heroes was Muhammad Ali, Michael Bennett, in his letter, said how Ali “always stood strongly with the Palestinian people,” and said that he wants to be a “voice for the voiceless…I cannot do that by going on this kind of a trip to Israel.”