BOSTON (CBS) — With players around sports reacting in different ways to the recent events in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jason McCourty did not know what to do.
Whether the Patriots practiced on Thursday or canceled the session out of protest, the 33-year-old just wasn’t sure anything would make a difference.
McCourty did, however, take some time to speak publicly about the shooting of Jacob Blake, the peaceful arrest of the teenager who shot and killed two protesters, and everything he’s feeling on a personal level.
Here’s everything Jason McCourty had to say on Thursday morning, uninterrupted and unedited.
What went into the decision to hold a practice?
Aw, man. I don’t know. I feel like right now, myself and I know a lot of other guys I’ve talked to in the locker room right now, we’re just lost, man. It’s almost like a sense of hopelessness.
In March, we had a team discussion via WebEx, and we all talked about it. And here we are months later, and we’re talking about the same exact thing.
And it’s like, all right, do we cancel practice? But if we cancel practice today on Thursday, do we cancel practice tomorrow on Friday? What’s gonna get us to go out and practice the next day?
We cancel practice today, we sit around, we discuss race, we discuss what happened to Jacob Blake, we talk about what’s continued to happen in our country for hundreds of years, but then we go out and practice tomorrow. Nobody cares. I think for us, right now, we’re trying to figure it out.
And I think I know for myself, you feel a sense of responsibility. You know, the neighborhood I came from wasn’t the greatest. There’s a lot of people that look like me that are still in that same neighborhood. And there’s a lot of people in neighborhoods right here in the New England area that are suffering. And we’re all hurting when we see what took place in Wisconsin.
And it’s not just Black and brown people. As human beings, as Americans, we should all watch a video — whether somebody was a former criminal or had a violent past, whatever all of that stuff in the discussion is — it doesn’t matter when you turn on a video and you watch a human life being shot in the back seven times. That stuff becomes secondary.
And I think we all need to hurt, we all need to feel devastated.
I have three young children, and I have no idea how I’m going to explain to ’em, hey, you’re not perfect, you’re going to make mistakes. We’re believers, we have strong faith, Jesus is going to forgive. You’re going to be able to redeem yourself. And then you watch videos and it’s just like, yeah, some people might have made a mistake. Some people didn’t. But they’re in the position they’re in — is a mistake worth being shot seven times? Is it worth being kneeled on until you take your last breath?
And I think for us as players, we’re lost. 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?
So to be honest, to answer your question, I have no idea why we went out there and practiced today. I feel like we all just go through the motions. 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, and 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.
How can you lean on your teammates to help in a moment when you feel lost?
Yeah I feel like we’re all discussing it, in and out, throughout the day. And I know a lot of us battled today of whether we should go out and practice or whether we should go home or whether we should sit around and talk. We just don’t know the answers.
I texted my wife this morning when we got into the building and I was just like, I feel guilty. I just don’t feel right. There’s just a feeling inside of me. There’s hurt inside of me, there’s anger inside of me. And I’m like … does football mean anything?
I talked to [teammate Brandon Copeland]. Obviously he’s a professor, and he said some of his students have hit him up and asked, ‘What’s the purpose of getting ready to go to college?’
I think there’s just so much emotion that goes on with everything that we’ve seen over the last few days. We watched a man shot seven times in the back, then we watch a 17-year-old kid go out and feel that he needed to take matters into this own hands, killing two people and walking by the cops with a long gun around his neck with his hands up, and getting in his car and driving all the way back to Illinois before anything is done. And we listen to the chief of police say this wouldn’t have happened if everybody had just been inside for the curfew.
And it’s just saddening.
We’re definitely trying to lean on each other, but we don’t have the answers. We have no idea what it is we have to do to fix this problem. But I think a lot of us — and I won’t say everyone, because I know everyone doesn’t probably feel the same way I do. Some people don’t see it as their issue. I’ve had people hit me up. I’ve had white friends hit me up and say, ‘Hey man, I support you. Whatever you need.’
And it’s just like hey, I need for this to be everybody’s problem. I need for this to not just be my problem, because the people that are going through it look like me.
I need this to be all of our problems, because we’re all humans.
We all should realize the significance of a human life, and how we all should be treated. And I think we’re all just struggling with this, man. We don’t know how to move forward. So we just stick to our routine, and we move, and we go through the motions. And for me, it’s when I get home, I’m trying to discuss it with my wife. Obviously, Dev’s here, and me and him are extremely close. And we’re trying to bounce ideas off each other but, there’s just so much emotion swirling around. It’s just so hard to decipher right now.
Do you get any respite from that hopelessness by going to your job and putting in work? Is going to work harder when you’re carrying those emotions?
It definitely makes it hard to show up. I think we learn to compartmentalize. And I think when we get out on the field today in practice, you get going and you’re a competitor as well and you get lost in football. And I think sometimes that can be a good thing, because it allows you the freedom to go out there and just be who you are and do what you love.
I think as soon as it’s over, you’re right back to reality. And it’s almost a sense of guilt that, hey, like I’m able to go out there and I’m able to escape what’s really going on out here.
And for Jacob Blake’s three children, who sat in the car and watched their father get shot seven times, where do you go to escape that feeling? Where do you go to erase that sight? Where do you go to deal with that type of trauma?
And this is a feeling of guilt when you walk away. And that’s probably the main thing that I was suffering from today, of guilt that I get to walk into the building and I get to go play football.
Because the reality is I could be anywhere, and as soon as I’m out of the building and there’s not a football in my hand, I’m just a Black man on the street. And I look a lot like some of the men who have lost their lives, who have been gunned down in the streets.
And the reality of the matter is I’m blessed to be able to do what I can and to have this platform. And for me, I’m going to try to do everything I can to help those who don’t have the ability to spread their voice that people will hear. So yeah, you’re definitely able to get away from it and to be able to love your craft and work at it and build as a team and all of that good stuff. But there’s a sense of guilt that comes with it, and it’s just not reality. Because we get to go out there, and whether it’s practice, whether it’s a game, it’s a few hours out of the day.
But I have a 7-year-old, and at some point she’s going to see these type of videos, and she’s going to wonder. And she’s going to ask me, ‘What’s going on, Daddy? What am I supposed to do if I’m in that situation? What if my brother is out there and this happens to him? How should he handle himself?’
And everybody doesn’t have to have those conversations. Everybody doesn’t have to sit down with their son and explain to him if he’s ever pulled over while he’s driving, that he needs to roll every window down in the car, that he needs to make sure that his license and registration and insurance are already visible. He needs to keep his hands on the steering wheel at all times. He needs to announce any move that he’s getting ready to make before he makes it.
Everybody doesn’t have to have that conversation. And I do. And I’m going to have to have that one day. And it breaks my heart, because my parents had to have that conversation with me. And my grandparents had to have that conversation with my parents. At what point, at what generation, do we get to stop having those conversations? Do we get to all feel normal and feel safe in a country where we say we all are free and we all are equal? But when we look around, we know that’s not the case.
Will the Patriots set aside time to talk as a team about the current situation, and will that be helpful?
We’ve done that in the past and we plan on doing that. I don’t know. I mean … I talked to Duron [Harmon], I know they did that in Detroit, and they kind of started it. And I thought what they did was awesome. Does it fix anything?
When we cancel practice and we sit down and we meet and we talk, does it change anything? When we stay inside for the national anthem, and then we go out there and we play in the game for four quarters and we entertain everybody, does it change anything?
And I think that’s what I’m struggling with. We cancel practice and we sit down and talk — does Thursday practice just move to Friday? Does everybody write a story on Thursday that the Patriots canceled practice, and then tomorrow the headline is, ‘Cam Newton Thrills At Practice’? And then we just go on and we talk about what happened that day: who’s out, who’s injured, who came back, who had an interception, who broke off a nice run. It just moves forward. And it’s just like yeah, that was awesome, they canceled practice, they did something. Oh, but they came out to practice the next day and that’s what we’re going to write about and that’s what we’re going to discuss.
I remember the opening press conference where Dev spoke and he didn’t take any questions. He just talked about what’s going on in our society, and at the end, he addressed the NFL and the opt-out date. And I went on Twitter after that, and the thing I saw most was ‘Devin McCourty bashes the NFL and the opt-out date.’ Nothing said, ‘Devin McCourty addresses Breonna Taylor. Devin McCourty talks about equal rights for everyone. Devin McCourty talks about voting.’
It wasn’t about that. It was about the NFL. And I feel like when you see players on the Lakers and the Clippers who have said, Hey, we don’t think we should play this game. And they’re trying to get the attention. But then I read something from Draymond Green and it was just like, as athletes we always feel the need that we need to stop playing to make change.
But at the end of the day we play a sport that’s also a business. And how many other businesses do you see being shut down right now?
Do you see the CEO of Apple or YouTube or Google saying, ‘Hey, we’re shutting down. We’re boycotting going to work. We’re not gonna do this anymore.’
So it’s a struggle. Because there are moments I feel like, man, screw this. I’m not going out there to entertain anyone when I feel the way I feel. And is that the right thing? Does that do anything? Is that fair? And it’s just, it’s been a ridiculous struggle.
I mean, you tweet something, ‘Prayers up for Jacob Blake for what he’s gone through and his family.’ And you go look at your mentions and you have to laugh at it.
And it’s just like … how can you watch that video and the only thing you can think about is, He was a criminal? Or he did this or he did that.
And just because someone is saying prayers up for him … I don’t know the man. I don’t know who he is. But I watched the video and I feel for it. And it hurts me to watch and, it’s just tough, man. It’s extremely tough.
I know I’m rambling because my emotions are everywhere as well.
Do you feel it’s a burden that athletes have been looked at to lead during these situations?
I definitely feel a sense of responsibility to the guys in my locker room, to my peers that play this sport, but more importantly to my community — the community in which I grew up, the community in which I’m playing and I represent. I definitely feel a sense of responsibility to try to be a voice for them.
And as I said earlier, for every negative comment you see on social media based upon standing up for something, there’s somebody from back home that’s telling me, ‘Hey, I’m proud of you, man. Continue to do what you’re doing.’
Of course you don’t do it for that, but sometimes it’s tough, man. And you need that motivation to continue to tell you that I need to fight, I need to fight because this isn’t right. And it hasn’t been right.
For sure, me alone, me, Dev, Slate, 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 is going to embark a change on a system that’s automatically just going to go to being equal and fair to everybody.
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.
And I think when you realize that, it allows you to continue to move forward and continue to fight for what you feel is right. And I’ve just told myself through all of this to pray, to pray what is the right move to make, what are the right words to say. And at the end of the day, do what I feel is right.
I discuss it with my wife every day. When I go home, she can look at me and say she’s proud of me. And my kids — that’s what’s gonna matter to me. And I just feel like I have to say something. Somebody does. And there’s been so many people that have spoken out and continue to speak out and will continue to speak out no matter what the outcome is for themselves personally. And I think we all have to do something.
And I think yesterday was the day that marked four years since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, and you just think about the backlash that that was met with. And the feelings of hostility towards him and the statements that were being said about him.
Four years later, you look at what we’re going through in our country, and it’s not new. It’s not like when he took a knee four years ago, it just started. And so a little bit of me is just like wow, is this just the trend, so now everybody wants to speak up?
But the other side of me is like, well maybe now it’s an awakening. Maybe now more people realize that what’s going on isn’t right. And whether they were asleep at the switch four years ago when Kaep took a knee, I’m not going to blame them. But if you now see that there’s an issue going on and you can be a light to maybe strive toward a solution, I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to say something and do something.
Any closing thoughts?
No, that was it. I’m all out of thoughts.