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Patriots players speak out about ongoing social justice issues: ‘We have to use our platform to raise awareness’

Related: Matthew Slater on social protests: ‘If our country operated like a locker room, it would be a beautiful thing’

Houston Texans v New England Patriots Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Protests demanding an end to inequality and police brutality continue all over the United States, and were reignited following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin over the weekend. New England Patriots players also remain actively involved in addressing social justice issues, even though the focus inside Gillette Stadium has shifted towards preparing for a regular season that will be kicked off in not even three weeks.

The latest members of the team to speak out were quarterback Cam Newton, guard Shaq Mason, and the McCourty Twins, defensive backs Devin and Jason. The four veterans shared their thoughts on the recent developments on Wednesday.

“What’s going on in this country of ours at times is extremely disgusting,” said Newton during a media conference call. “And until we find a fix, I think more than ever, we have to unify and become one as much as possible. From the Black Lives Matter campaign, from the social injustice, bringing awareness with that, and just everybody becoming more aware of certain things and not necessarily turning their ears, turning their face from things that are extremely blatant.”

Newton, who joined the organization earlier this offseason after a nine-year stint as the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback, was asked to share his opinion about the developments in Kenosha: Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer over the weekend, while subsequent protests breaking out in the city led to two more deaths when a 17-year-old militia member allegedly shot and killed two people.

“It becomes hard being a father. It becomes hard knowing what your day job is,” Newton said. “But yet, we have to use our platform to raise awareness for issues like this while we’re going through so much — from Covid-19, this is an election year with voting and making everybody aware to vote, and having issues that still are pertinent in our society and in our community, and still not seeing things get done.”

Shaq Mason shared a similar message during his own media availability session. The 26-year-old, who is entering his sixth season in the organization as the offensive line’s longest-tenured member, spoke about how change has to start on an individual level before possibly starting to spill over and impact a larger sphere. Mason mentioned the Patriots’ locker room as an example of proactive discussions going on.

“Social justice is a thing of our country, and it runs deep especially in our locker room,” the two-time world champion said. “We have many minorities in our locker room. That’s definitely a topic that we all discuss and we’re pushing for change and better things to come for our country moving forward. But as far as that goes, it starts with us; taking a stand, wanting change, just promoting it.”

The demand for change was amplified on Wednesday, when NBA playoff games were postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott their upcoming contest against the Orlando Magic. Other teams joined the Bucks in the strike, which later also spread to the MLB and saw several teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers, sit out games in solidarity. In the NFL, the Detroit Lions previously decided to cancel one of their training camp practices after the Blake shooting, while the New York Giants pushed one of theirs back 45 minutes.

As for the Bucks’ decision, Devin and Jason McCourty took applauded their initiative to sit out the postseason contest versus Orlando.

“Respect to the guys in the Bucks locker room. Taking a stand for what they believe in and for justice!” the brothers wrote on their jointly-run Twitter account.

The McCourty Twins are among the veteran leaders in the New England’s room and have proven themselves outspoken proponents for social change in the past — from advocating for criminal justice reform, to supporting local initiatives to improve education, to repeatedly using their Double Coverage podcast to talk about social issues. Devin also was among the more than a dozen Patriots to kneel during the National Anthem in September 2017 as a form of peaceful protest against police brutality.

“You just have to stay focused and impact the things you can impact the most,” said Newton on Wednesday, meanwhile. “For me, I do try to bring awareness from the environment that I’m in each and every day — from my children, from having open discussions in the locker room. Not just with all Black players, with Caucasians as well, or whatever the race may be. I think that’s the start, that we all can impact change in our own right.”