Devin McCourty did not stick to sports on Sunday. Quite the opposite.
Speaking with local reporters in a video conference, the New England Patriots safety and co-captain declined to discuss football topics, choosing instead to deliver a long and impassioned statement about societal issues and his ongoing fight for social justice.
McCourty spoke for more than six minutes, addressing the killing of Breonna Taylor, inequalities in the education and healthcare systems, police reform and the NFL’s lack of diversity in head-coaching, general manager and ownership positions. The football community, he said, cannot “lose focus” on these issued now that training camps are beginning and the offseason is coming to a close.
McCourty, who recently was honored with an award for his community contributions, also voiced his support for the Patriots players who have elected to opt out of this season due to COVID-19 concerns and lambasted the NFL for shrinking the player opt-out window, calling their desire to move up the deadline “an absolute joke.” He did not say whether he plans to opt out or play this season.
Below is a full transcript of McCourty’s comments:
“I appreciate the question, but I’m going to be really short today, actually. I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking. 2020 I think has forced us all to think a lot, and I think one of the biggest reasons why I’m continuing to play football and doing all of this and having fun doing it — obviously my family has been through a lot this year already, but I’ve always said it. You guys have known over the last couple years I’ve been big on off-the-field things, and I think it’s very important that I don’t lose focus on that and that everyone around football doesn’t lose focus on that.
“So I just want to talk about those issues. I want to talk about things that have been going on in our country. I think one of the biggest things that you’ve heard so many people talk about is justice, obviously for Breonna Taylor, a young woman killed in her house because of different things, no-knock warrants, just a mistake, going in the wrong house.
“Something we’ve fought for here in Massachusetts: equal education. With COVID-19 and all the different things that have shown up, the digital divide for different kids if school remains virtual, kids having laptops, kids having WiFi will be some big issues that the Krafts have already been a part of, and I see us trying to do something like that to help in the future as a team.
“Obviously, the healthcare inequalities have really stood out with this virus — communities, different hospitals just not having the resources to help. It’s been a main reason why African-Americans have taken a huge hit from this virus. So these are just some things that I think I want to focus on and hopefully our team gets behind. Really, our team is already starting to do that.
“Also, police and community relationships. Obviously, with qualified immunity becoming a big subject in the country and in Massachusetts, just seeing how that works out. And because of that, I actually had a conversation with minorities on the police force and just learning about their journey. I think one of the issues that I want to get involved in this year is how to help elevate the minorities in the police department, making sure that’s equal and that they get the fair treatment. Because those guys and women talk about just a little bit of a different journey, very similar to everything else African-Americans and minorities go through in our country. I think sometimes we forget about officers that are trying to climb those ranks and do those things, and I want to make sure that we try to shine a spotlight on that and help those guys and women out.
“And I think lastly and most importantly is seeing a change in the sport we play. I think it’s key that the NFL wants to get involved in making changes, but I think until we see those changes in our game at the head-coaching position and GMs and ownership — seeing African-Americans, men and women, having those fair opportunities to do those same things that we speak about being done in our country — I think it’s hard for us in the NFL to go out there and speak and try to be very outspoken and be in the forefront without having those things in our league. So those are some of the things I want to focus on. I think we have a great group of guys on this team, obviously, and I think we’re all locked in. We had great conversations all throughout the spring, and I just want to make sure that — we start (training camp), and everything’s about so many different things — I just want to make sure we stay locked in on that.
“I guess the only other thing I’ll say about football is a lot of respect to those guys — obviously the guys that I got a chance to play with over the years — who decided to opt out. I’ve gotten to speak with all those guys, and it’s a tough decision right now with everything that’s going on of what you want to do as far as your family. Those guys, they made tough decisions. A lot of people around are asking us how we feel about those guys. They made a hard decision to forgo your contract this year, not to have the opportunity to be around all the guys and how much fun we have. So I have a lot of respect for all those guys. We’ve won a lot of football games together and gone through a lot of things personally. Those guys will still be my friends. I’ll still talk to them all the time.
“And then I guess the last thing is, standing up and speaking up, the last thing I’ll say is I think it’s an absolute joke that the NFL is changing the opt-out period, mainly because they don’t want to continue to see guys opt out. I’m sure they’re shocked about how many guys have opted out, but it’s the same thing when we sign the CBA. Sometimes some of those things that we think are good sometimes backfire. We have rookies who are locked in long-term contracts and tagged and tagged. You guys don’t think we would love to change that about the CBA? But we can’t. That’s the point of signing an agreement. So I think it’s terrible. I think it’s B.S. that the league has changed that date. Because as you guys know, Monday will be our first day in the building, so to try to make that decision about something other than virtual meetings is a joke.
“I think it’s something we go through as players, and when players see how much power they have, we’ve seen things change for us. I mean, primarily even with this deal, with COVID-19 and trying to get everything back, we saw some of that strength. So hopefully we’ll see how everything turns come Wednesday, if that ends up being the deadline, but I support guys no matter what they decide. But I’m still out here having fun and figuring things out, so we’ll see how we go. I appreciate it, guys.”