Devin and Jason McCourty have been among the most vocal players in the New England Patriots’ locker room ever since their arrivals in 2010 and 2018, respectively, and have taken on a leading role as protests against racial injustice and police brutality spread all over the United States following the murder of George Floyd at the hand of Minneapolis police officers in May.
With another police shooting leading to more protests and ultimately a 17-year-old being charged with killing two protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Patriots decided to alter their media availability schedule on Thursday to give the two veterans the virtual floor to share their thoughts on the situation. The mood during both their conference calls was a somber one, best summed up by Jason’s opening remarks.
“I think for us as players, we’re lost,” he said. “We don’t know why we’re practicing. We don’t know why we would not practice. We don’t know why we’d be preparing for games. We don’t know why we wouldn’t. We’re completely lost as Americans. We have no idea what’s the way to go. We saw last night, NBA players not play. You hear reports now that two of the teams don’t want to play and the rest of the teams do. We’re all lost. We have no idea what’s the right move. What can I possibly do to change a system that’s been in place for so many years?”
His brother spoke in a similar tone, and with the same emotional weight attached to his statements.
“I’ve had so many different emotions of being angry, being sad,” said Devin McCourty. “A lot of it has really been what I’ve tried to talk to young kids about. I felt really hopeless and I don’t have a statement — I don’t have anything powerful. It has just been very disheartening watching things transpire and watching lives still be lost. It’s not just police brutality, it’s everything we deal with even like today, I’m going to come on here, you guys are going to ask me questions and it’s going to be about my opinions on different things.”
“But I just feel like, overall, until people turn on different things that we watched and we all have that same outlook — ‘What is going on? This is heartbreaking, this is terrible.’ — it just doesn’t matter. I just felt very hopeless the last couple of days.”
Jason McCourty, who spoke for 17 minutes, was also asked about the Patriots’ decision to hold practice today while other teams all across the league decided to cancel theirs: the New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and the Washington Football Team all canceled their respective workouts on Thursday. The Detroit Lions did the same on Tuesday, with the New York Giants pushing one of their sessions back 45 minutes to create room for discussion.
McCourty’s remarks were telling.
“I have no idea why we went out there and practiced today. I feel like we all just go through the motions,” he said. “We feel like we have meetings starting at 7:15, so we wake up and we go to the 7:15 meeting carrying every emotion, every tear with us, and not knowing how to deal with it at all. We just kind of go through the motions because it’s routine. And we’ve all become so numb to this because this happened so many times in so many different places that we’re all just confused. And there’s a sense of hopelessness, of just not knowing how to fix a problem.”
The two brothers also spoke about the pressure athletes are under to react to social issues and become advocates of change. Devin McCourty, who has been voted a team captain each of the past nine seasons, spoke about the difficulty of action initiated by athletes leading to concrete change in the communities and for those in need of social and racial equality.
“Athletes have had a huge voice on change and being a part of it. I saw something Draymond Green posted about ‘Why should athletes stop playing and be the only people to stop playing? Why doesn’t some of the top businesses, whether it’s Apple or something like that, why doesn’t their CEO stop going to work? Why do we only look for athletes to cancel games and stop going to work?’ I read that and I was like, ‘That’s another interesting point.’ That makes sense.
“That feeling right now as an athlete, almost everything makes sense but it’s just like ‘Is that the right answer?’ None of us know that. So there’s definitely pressure to go out there and do something. Right now, there’s pressure on every team that goes out and practices. Like, you shouldn’t be canceling practices is the theme right now. Or when the anthem comes up, you should be taking a knee. It’s just like at the end of all of that, if the goal is to help these different people in different areas or trying to get rid of all the systems that are holding or oppressing different people, when we do those things does that really affect change?”
Jason McCourty had a similar answer when asked the same question.
“Me, Dev, [Matthew Slater], whatever the group is, are we going to change the world? No. Not at all. I mean, this system has been built over hundreds of years. It’s not going to be a few guys on the Patriots that play football that are going to embark a change in a system that’s automatically just going to go to being equal and fair to everybody,” he said. “But I do feel like we have been blessed and we have been placed in the situations we’re in to make a difference, and that’s not just chasing after Super Bowls. It’s bigger than that.”