After the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin murder trial — guilty on all three charges — NFL teams and players took to social media to share their thoughts. Among them were the New England Patriots, who released a brief statement calling the jury’s decision a “step toward accountability and justice.”
The Patriots’ full statement reads as follows:
Today’s verdict is one step toward accountability and justice. We recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done and we are committed to being a part of that progress.
A former Minneapolis police officer, Chauvin stood trial for the killing of George Floyd last year — he had knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes last May, leading to his eventual death. After being found guilty on charges of second-degree murder while committing a felony, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, Chauvin is now facing up to 40 years in prison.
Why would the Patriots and other NFL clubs feel the need to release statements after the verdict, though, and not simply #StickToSports? The answer is a simple one: the Floyd murder last year reignited social justice protests not just all over the country, but throughout the world of pro football as well.
While that is in itself nothing new — from the repeated support of charitable causes by players and teams, to Colin Kaepernick’s highly publicized pre-game protests in 2017 — it reached another level last year. Floyd’s murder was neither the first nor, unfortunately, the last incident of its kind, but it created a dynamic that also reached the NFL and saw players openly push back against institutional racism, police brutality and social injustice.
The Patriots were also part of this, with veteran leaders such as Matthew Slater, Brandon King or twin brothers Devin and Jason McCourty taking on active roles. This process culminated in the creation of the so-called Monday Meetings, a series of hour-long meetings conducted weekly before and during the season.
Those Monday Meetings gave players and coaches a forum to discuss social issues, with head coach Bill Belichick among those also actively involved. Seeing his club, and its players, react to the Derek Chauvin verdict is therefore no surprise.
“I didn’t think we would see a guilty verdict. Justice was served. Sad a man lost his life and a young girl lost a dad. The fight continues!” Devin McCourty and his twin brother Jason, a former Patriot who is currently a free agent, wrote on their joint Twitter account.
“Justice has been served,” added newly signed defensive tackle Davon Godchaux.
“Accountability,” wrote defensive back Joejuan Williams.
Both the league and the NFLPA released statements after the verdict as well, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell noting that the “outcome in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis does not undo the loss of life” and that “even as we identify reasons for hope, we must continue to help move our society toward a more equal and just tomorrow.”