BOSTON (CBS) — Like many people around the United States, Patriots safety Devin McCourty is at a loss. His emotions were on full display Thursday afternoon, talking with reporters about the state of the country.
McCourty is a powerful speaker and is never afraid to weigh in on the current climate. But on Thursday, it was as though he had just played in a grueling NFL game. He’s tired of talking about change, and wants to finally see some action to create that change.
But like many of us, he’s just not sure how to make it happen.
“I’ve been thinking a lot the last couple of days and I’ve had so many different emotions of being angry, of being sad. A lot of it is what I’ve been trying to talk to young kids about. I’ve felt hopeless,” McCourty told reporters during a video chat following Thursday’s practice. “I don’t have a statement or anything powerful. It’s just been very disheartening watching things transpire. Watching lives still be lost. It’s not just police brutality, it’s everything we deal with. Today you guys are going to ask me questions on my opinions on different things, but I just feel like overall, until people turn things on and we watch and we all have the same outlook — ‘What is going on, this is heartbreaking. this is terrible.’ — it just don’t matter. I’ve felt hopeless over the last few days.
With protests popping up around the country over the shooting of Jacob Blake, and with the NBA canceling its slate of games Wednesday and Thursday as players refused to play, McCourty said that football really doesn’t matter at the moment.
“Everything is [secondary]. Everybody in the locker room has so many different thoughts and feelings going on. But I also don’t know, if we don’t practice one day but we go back the next day, I don’t know what that really accomplishes,” he said. “I don’t know what will be done. I’ve done a lot of this work over the last couple of years, studied things. I’ve tried to do different things. I know we can take a day off and talk about a bunch of things. We have talked as a team and done all that, and it just doesn’t matter. Football distracts people from that, but even if there was no football, people wouldn’t care about Black and brown people in our country. I don’t think that will be the result of it. I’ve been at a loss at what to do and what not to do, what is acceptable.”
McCourty says he stands with the NBA players who decided not to play, but isn’t sure what it will accomplish in the end.
“It was powerful seeing the NBA and all of those guys not play, but does it really matter if they go play the next day? I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I don’t know. I don’t have those answers,” he said. “I don’t know what is the right thing to do. It’s been tough. All throughout the day you have emotions of being happy being on the football field, but you have the emotions of talking about things that don’t have anything to do about football. As players and as human beings, we’re all figuring out a way to just press on.”
McCourty is one of the leaders of the Patriots, but he said he hasn’t been able to address the team about the Blake shooting. Days later, he’s still trying to grasp the incident from an individual standpoint.
“I haven’t even thought of any team aspects. As an individual I haven’t been able to come to grips with anything, let alone try to be a voice to guys and say we should so something. I don’t have that answer so I haven’t tried to be the guy in front of anything,” he said. “I’ve been trying to handle things from an individual standpoint. I’ve talked to guys separately about how I feel and tried to gauge how they feel, but it has been hard for me individually to even try to say that we should do this or do that. I’ve been involved and been the guy to say, ‘This is important, guys, c’mon let’s do this.’ But right now, I don’t know if I tell a rookie ‘Nah, we don’t need to practice because we need to …’ — I don’t have that answer. I don’t know what to tell a young rookie — Black, white I don’t care about that. I don’t know what to tell them that we need to do next as a team to help different Black and brown people that are struggling, whether it’s police brutality, education, health care. I don’t have those answers and I don’t want to do something just to do it because everybody else is doing it. I’m still searching within myself for that.
“I know I sat there last night and I looked at my kids. The only thing I could think about is that I have to talk to my kids about what my mom taught me as I became a teenager, about how to handle being arrested, or me being pulled over by a cop and how to conduct myself. What clothes to wear so that when I went somewhere people would think I had an education and people didn’t think I couldn’t speak correctly, or was intimidating or a threat to them,” he explained. “Those are the conversations my mom had with me as a young teenage, and I looked at my kids and thought, ‘I have to tell my son to act a certain way so people don’t think he’s a threat and he’ll always be able to come home. I have to tell my daughter those same things.’ That just broke my heart last night. I know my mom’s mom told her that. My grandmother’s mother taught her that. Dating back hundreds of years, that has been a conversation in Black households. My kids are 3 and 2 and I have to try to shield them from that as long as possible, but eventually I have to have that conversation. It’s very tiring talking about that.
“It’s just like no one cares,” he added. “It has been brutal.
“I’ve just been praying. I talked to my mom earlier this morning, texting her, and I’m just leaning on what I know. Praying that things will get better, the attitude of hope and having the faith to go on and see things improving,” said McCourty.
He agrees that there is pressure on athletes to use their position to demand change.
“Definitely. Over generations, athletes have had a huge voice in change and being a part of that. I saw Draymond Green asking why athletes should stop playing and being the only people to stop playing — why don’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 at athletes to cancel games and stop going to work? I read that and that’s another interesting point, it makes sense. It’s just the feeling of right now, as an athlete, everything makes sense but is that the answer? None of us know that.
“There is definitely pressure to go out there and do something. Right now there is pressure for teams that go out and practice, like you should be canceling practice. Or when the anthem comes up you should be taking a knee. At the end of all of that, the goal is to help these different people in different areas to get rid of all the systems that are holding and oppressing different people. When we do those things, does that really effect that change? That is what I think is the issue right now and something we have to try to find.”
McCourty said that he has talked to players on other teams, as many players have done throughout the league. But he is really at a loss, unsure of what would work. He isn’t sure if owners should become more involved, or if everyone should step away from football at the moment. But he said that everything should be on the table when it comes to finding a solution.
“I don’t know if that’s the answer. Even as you think to yourself, would it mean more if owners get involved? I don’t know if that will be the change that is needed. If more owners got involved, I think that would be awesome. I’ve had plenty of conversations with Mr. Kraft about a lot of things. But I don’t know, would it help people to see Mr. Kraft jump in front of a camera and talk about how he feels about the things in Wisconsin. Would that cure all the things in our country? Would that help the different people in Wisconsin walking around wit guns, who in my eyes when I watch, that’s pretty threatening watching someone walking around with a loaded gun. But for some people in Wisconsin, that’s not threatening at all. How do we change that? How do we get people to understand the difference of being a Black man and a White man? Why can’t they be seen as equal walking down the street? If one has a gun, that can be threatening, but the the one that doesn’t have a gun, if he’s black, might be more threatening to someone. I don’t know if having ownership behind us makes that voice louder
“We’re at a point in our country where we’ve had the most eyes, awareness that we’ve ever had,” he said. “Especially with social media and all the different outlets. People have been talking about this non-stop. I couldn’t give you a straight answer that if we all boycott Week 1 will that solve the problem? I don’t know, because does that matter if we all come back and play Week 2?
“Everything should be on the table. I’m not saying those are our solutions, but all I’m saying is it’s hard right now.”