Martellus Bennett took to Twitter on Friday to express his lack of interest in fantasy football. That got on the radars of a pair of fantasy football analysts, who chided the Green Bay Packers tight end, leading to responses from him that probably didn’t make them any happier.
The back-and-forth began when Bennett, who uses a very active presence on social media to promote a wide variety of personal and entrepreneurial interests, tweeted, “I don’t care about your fantasy football team. Thanks! Sincerely real life football guy.”
That sentiment, which was probably not coincidentally put forth during the height of fantasy-draft season, earned him hundreds of replies from other Twitter users, who offered a mix of approval, amusement and irritation. He followed up with one tweet strongly suggested that fantasy players should not draft him, and another in which he said, “Parents yell at kids for playing video games all day, they could say the same s— to y’all. LOL.”
To his first tweet about fantasy football, Liz Loza of Yahoo Sports replied, “That’s low. You’re one of the coolest/most savvy brand managers in this business. Gotta recognize how fantasy grows your visibility/reach.”
“Low? It’s the truth. My truth,” Bennett replied. “Visibility and reach for what? People who play FF I’m already visible to. They’re watching the games.”
ESPN’s Matthew Berry, arguably the biggest name in the fantasy football industry, also chimed in, telling Bennett that while the 10th-year player shouldn’t necessarily care about others’ fantasy football teams, he might consider that the pastime “is a big driver of the huge interest that allows you to be paid $$$$.”
Berry added that Bennett should “maybe not be a jerk about it.”
The “jerk” comment caught Bennett by surprise, and he wondered aloud (or online, at least) why Berry was being “so emotional.” The 2014 Pro Bowl selection, who helped the Patriots win this year’s Super Bowl, tweeted that football “was the most popular sport in the world before FF and will be after FF. All FF did was cross pollinate fans.”
“Y’all act like FF is responsible for all football fans that are watching the game these days,” Bennett continued, noting that fantasy football was not actually that “powerful.”
“For all? No. Of course not. But it’s certainly helped fuel interest & ratings,” Berry replied. “And that helps you guys get paid more — as you should be. … FF is a reason that there will be millions of additional Martellus fans that are NOT [Green Bay] fans. How is that a bad thing for you?”
Bennett went on to tweet that, to him, fantasy football was equivalent to board or parlor games such as checkers, tic-tac-toe and Connect Four. He wryly promised to start “telling y’all about my board game victories,” adding, “You guys can join my board game league I’m starting. Who’s in?”
“I never said fantasy football was bad I just said I don’t give a s— about it,” Bennett tweeted. “I play quidditch in the summers I’m sure y’all don’t care.”
Bennett didn’t specify what got him to start tweeting about his antipathy, or at least stridently apathetic feelings (oxymoron alert), toward fantasy football. However, the same social media platforms that allow athletes to communicate directly with fans also allow those fans to let them know exactly how happy or irate they feel about those athletes’ contributions to countless fantasy teams.
If Bennett were essentially complaining that some people seemed to care more about what he could do for their imaginary football teams than what he was doing for his real-life team, let alone what he was accomplishing in many other walks of life, he would hardly have been the first sports star to do so. At the same time, fantasy sports were long sneered at by both athletes and executives in real sports, until their popularity — and potential to turn intense interest into millions of dollars — became undeniable.
It’s probably long past time for full disclosure here: I am a fantasy football analyst for The Post. (Have you checked out our great content? Don’t you dare draft without it!) I’m also, not surprisingly, a longtime fantasy football player, and I can attest to the fact that it is hardly a detriment to participants’ appreciation for “real” football.
Quite the opposite, in fact, as having a fantasy team means having a strong interest in numerous NFL games on any given weekend, as opposed to just the contest involving one’s hometown squad. That was essentially the point being made by Berry and Loza, the latter of whom told Bennett that fantasy football has helped him “reach people outside” of the markets of the NFL teams for which he has played.
The fantasy analysts were trying to encourage Bennett to not gratuitously take a bite out of the hand that feeds him, to some degree, but the 30-year-old has rarely seemed concerned about possibly alienating interested parties with his comments. In the past, Bennett has said that some former Bears teammates were “a bunch of b—-es,” mocked an NFL tutorial on permissible touchdown celebrations and was the first New England player to say he wasn’t going to attend the traditional champion’s visit to the White House.
Bennett’s brother Michael, a defensive end with the Seahawks, shares many of the same traits, and he has more or less taken the mantle from Colin Kaepernick as the league’s most prominent national anthem protester.
In her exchange with Bennett Friday, Loza asserted that she was not “a hater,” but rather admired how Bennett’s many pursuits make him much more than just a tight end. She subsequently posted another tweet, though, in which she said, “No need to snark at people growing your brand. Just rude and shortsighted.”
Bennett may not have been rude, per se, but he could reasonably be judged as condescending in his response to Berry’s comment that there was “no reason to dismiss those that play” fantasy football.
“We all want our work to feel more important than it may actually be,” Bennett tweeted. “I used to feel the same about being a pro athlete.”