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New England Patriots

Sep 11, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriot logos on the podium during the press conference before practice at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots held practice Thursday morning following the NBA’s protest of games Wednesday night, in relation to the shooting Jacob Blake by police officers in Wisconsin over the weekend.

After practice, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, and James White spoke to the media about their reactions, thoughts, and more. Here are excerpts of what was said:

Devin McCourty

On his general thoughts:

“I’ve been thinking a lot the last couple of days. I’ve had so many different emotions of being angry, being sad. A lot of it has really been what I try to talk to a lot of kids about. I’ve felt very hopeless. I don’t have a statement. I don’t have anything powerful. It’s just been very disheartening. Just watching things transpire, watching lives still be lost and it’s not just police brutality. It’s everything we deal with. Even today, I’m going to come on here and you’re going to ask me questions and it’s going to be my opinions on different things. I just feel like overall until people turn on different things and we watch that and still have the same outlook like, ‘man, what is going on? This is heartbreaking. This is terrible,’ it just doesn’t matter. I’ve just felt very hopeless the last couple of days.”

Asked if it’s hard to focus on football:

“Everybody in this locker room has so many thoughts and feelings going on, but I also don’t know if we don’t practice one day and go back practicing the next day, I don’t know what that really accomplishes? I don’t know what will be down. I’ve done a lot of this work over the last coupe of years. I’ve studied things. I’ve tried to do different things. I know we could take a whole day off and we could talk about a whole bunch of different things. We have talked as a team. We’ve done all that stuff. It just hasn’t mattered. Obviously, football distracts people from that. But if there was no football, I don’t think people are still going to care about black and brown people in our country. I just don’t think that will be result of it. Like I said, I’ve been at a loss with what to do, what not to do, what is acceptable. It was powerful seeing the NBA and all those guys not play, but does it really matter if they go and play. I don’t now. I’m not saying they’re wrong. I’m just being honest with you. I don’t know. I don’t have those answers. I don’t know what’s the right thing to do. It’s just been tough. I think all throughout the day, you have emotions – being happy to be out there on the football field. You have emotions of talking about something that has nothing to do about football when we’re out there. I think as player and as human beings, we’re all figuring out a way to continuing to press on.

Asked if he thinks things are getting worse:

“You say that and right away I think of a football term that every coach has always said to me, ‘if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.’ There’s probably some aspect of that because the more we see all of these different tragic events happen, you become numb to it. I am like everybody else and that is why I caught myself yesterday, or a couple of days ago, and I see the video and I am like, ‘well dang, what did he do? How did this get to that?’ We leave out when you turn on that video, you are watching humans like this. This isn’t a movie or a video game. You’re watching real life. You are watching someone get shot in the back six, seven times. This is real. You’re watching a 17-year-old kid walk around with a deadly rifle. It’s like a video game and there are people running around and this is what we watch on TV. So like, when you just think of a natural way of life and how it goes, if things don’t get better, yeah, it will start to get worse because each time an incident happens, you are like, ‘Well, why didn’t we learn from the other incident?’ So, in your brain as those things keep happening, it gets worse and then you become numb to it. And then it just becomes the norm. That is one of my biggest fears is that some day this continues to just happen and people get tired from yelling from balconies or going and making statements or trying to help and they just become numb to it and it just becomes normalized.”

Jason McCourty

On the team’s decision to practice today:

“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, ‘Alright, do we cancel practice?’ But if we cancel practice today on a Thursday, do we cancel practice tomorrow on a Friday? What’s going to get us to go out and practice the next day? If we cancel practice today, we sit around, we discuss race, we discuss what happened to Jacob Blake, or we talk about what’s continuing 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 know, for myself, you feel a sense of responsibility. I know the neighborhood I came from wasn’t the greatest. I know 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. 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 that stuff that the discussion is, it doesn’t matter when you turn on a video and you watch human life being shot in the back seven times. That stuff becomes secondary. 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 them, ‘Hey, you’re not perfect. You’re going to make mistakes. We’re believers. We have strong faith. Jesus is going to figure, and you’re going to be able to redeem yourself,’ and then you watch videos, 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? I think for us as players, we’re lost. We don’t know why we’re practicing. We don’t know why we would’ve not practiced. We don’t know why we would 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. I mean, we saw last night NBA players not play, you hear reports now that two of the teams don’t want to play, 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 the system that’s been in place for so many years? 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, hey, we have meetings starting at 7:15 and we wake up and we go to 7:15 meetings 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. We’ve all kind of become so numb to this because it’s happened so many times and in so many different places that we’re all just confused. There’s a sense of hopelessness of just not knowing or understanding how to fix a problem.”

On what kind of discussions the team has had:

“We’re all discussing it, in and out, throughout the day. I know a lot of us battled today 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 I got into the building, and I was just like, ‘I feel guilty. I just don’t feel right.’ There’s just a feeling inside me, there’s hurt inside of me, there’s anger inside of me. And I’m like, does football mean anything. I talked to [Brandon Copeland], and obviously he was a professor, and he said some of his students have hit him up and were just like, ‘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 watch a man shot seven times in the back and then we watch a 17-year-old kid go out and feel like he needed to take matters into his own hands, killing two people, and walked by the cops with a long gun around his neck with his hands up and get in his car and drive all the way back to Illinois before anything is done. We listen to the Chief of Police say, ‘Well, none of this would have happened if everybody had been inside for the curfew.’ 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 probably doesn’t 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 it to not just be my problem because the people that are going through it look like me. I need it 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. I think we’re 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. For me, it’s when I get home, I’m trying to discuss it with my wife, obviously, Dev’s here, me and him are extremely close, 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.”

James White

Reaction to the NBA not playing Wednesday night:

“I think it’s extremely powerful what the NBA did. It takes a lot of courage, especially during the playoffs, and all the hard work it took for them to get the bubble started. For them to realize there’s so much going on in the world, there’s so many more important things than basketball especially at this time. For those guys to realize that and try and take charge, and do whatever they can to grab that attention, and to kinda try to demand change in this world . . . it stinks to keep seeing these things happen over and over again. To see (incidents) on social media every other week, we just have to do better as a country. We have to do better as people. We just have to treat each other better, all these types of things. I don’t know what it’s going to take, I don’t know what the exact answer is, who we need to talk to, exactly. But I think it’s very powerful and a good first step what the NBA is doing. We just gotta do better.”

Asked how much “mental space” this takes up:

“It takes up a lot, honestly. It hurts just to keep seeing these things, especially with social media being more prevalent, and camera phones, people are catching a lot of this stuff on camera, more than ever before. It’s not like it wasn’t happening before, it’s just now, things are being seen by the whole world, now. These things have been going on for a very long time. People have been speaking up for a very long time. But I think now more than ever, more people are speaking about it. I think that’s great. Just trying to have those tough conversations, talking to people, just trying to figure out what’s best to do, and it’s tough. Sometimes you feel stuck, you don’t know who to talk to, you don’t know what to do. But I think guys across all sports are trying to do whatever they can to make an impact, make a change. I think a lot of people truly care, it’s not just police brutality, it’s not just one subject, there’s so much going on, more than just that. There’s so many issues that need to be tackled. Sometimes you just don’t know where to start. I think this is a great beginning, grabbing everyone’s attention, the NBA not playing their playoff games and the thing is, the NFL has to figure out a way for us to make an impact, as well.”

Asked if he has a personal story about dealing with police:

“For me, no, not exactly like some of these situations that have been going on right now. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean getting shot by police, and things of that nature. It can be being followed in a store, things of that nature, just being judged by the color of your skin, and not the person you are. These are things people deal with on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be just myself. Just seeing these incidents going on, knowing that could be my brother, that could be my dad, that could be my cousin, it could be one of my best friends. It just hurts. Every time I see these situations, I think what if that’s someone I truly care about. It hurts, man. You don’t ever want to see anybody have to deal with these situations. It’s just not right. We have to be better, we have to do better as people. People have to change their actions, change their hearts, just find a way to make better judgment.”

On being involved with the diversity movement at his alma mater, University of Wisconsin:

“I have. One of my best friends works at recruiting at Wisconsin. He keeps me involved with things they’re doing there, trying to create a more diverse campus, trying to help make the campus more diverse with more minority students. I think that will be huge. Wisconsin is a majority white school, a majority white campus, so to make it a more diverse campus will be a great start, for sure. But to see those young athletes, they want to try to make a difference in a positive way, and try to help those who may not be getting the opportunities they should, or marginalized, have them get into college and further their education like the rest of the people. It would be a huge deal, and something that would be great for the university.”