Every week, Patriots players are asked question after question by the New England media cohort, but on Friday afternoon, Brandon Copeland asked something of the reporters on his video conference call – something they could do for his son and children like him.
Hold each other accountable and be mindful of the stories they tell.
As the country reels and the collective focus shifts to racism, police brutality and inequality, Copeland said he has been paying particular attention to how stories are told, how Black people are portrayed in everything from movies to the evening news.
"You look at TV, and you just see Black people in roles of drug dealer and robber and villain, and all of these types of things. Obviously, you guys don't control that," Copeland said. "But I personally have taken this time, especially after George Floyd's murder, and I've literally flipped through different news channels that I typically wouldn't watch. I watched how the same input produces two totally different outputs. If there's one thing I could ask of you all, which I know none of you asked for my opinion on this, but it's just hold each other accountable."
Copeland pointed to the 2020 NFL Draft as a different example. As men were being selected, the broadcast showed pictures from their lives, shots of their families, and while it should be a night of celebration, the anecdotes often turned to what personal obstacles each draft pick has faced.
It was a topic of conversation during and after the weekend, but Copeland said this kind of tragedy gawking harms Black folks in particular.
"You see these young men being drafted on what should be one of the best days of their lives and then all you see is the bullet points next to their name talking about how their dad was a crackhead. Their brother was shot and killed or is in jail or some random stuff, as opposed to highlighting the human that they are, right," he said. "Now, you've got millions of viewers looking at that and just thinking that every Black man is some broken story, so to speak."
If stories have power to convey a message or a viewpoint, then those who hold the pen are also in control to an extent.
"I just think you guys have a tremendous amount of power, as you know," Copeland said. "You have a tremendous platform, as you know. I think you that if I could ask anything on behalf of my son, it's just you guys holding each other accountable and the industry accountable."
Copeland is the father of a 13-month-old son, and while he said people find him adorable right now, he knows there will be a shift because of the color of his skin. He knows it will turn from his son being perceived as a cute, young boy to being perceived as a threat by some simply because he is Black.
"The problem is with the things that have been going on in this world and have been going on in this world, there are certain things I can't coach my son through. I can try to prepare him for these situations and have the talk with him and multiple talks with him, but ultimately, how do you explain to a young a kid," Copeland said. "Obviously, I'm biased. He's a beautiful young kid, young boy, but years from now unfortunately, some people will look at him as a threat just because of the color of his skin, right? Not having known or even having met him or understanding his heart at all. How do you tell him, 'Hey, don't wear a hoodie because someone might take you as a threat? Don't go for a jog because some random vigilante might think that you're a threat and take your life.'"
In that vein, Copeland said he knows there isn't one solution for a problem as large and enduring as racism, sharing a similar sentiment as Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty and James White. However, there are avenues where individuals can influence change that will, hopefully, grow beyond just a single person into foundational change.
"This issue is very, very overwhelming at times because it's like where do we start? Where do we finish? There's no one answer to solving equality and these issues in our country. There's no one answer to make it happen, but I think there are multiple layers that can ultimately help us achieve this over time," Copeland said. "One of those pillars would be media and the depictions of people. I think if we all focus on what we can do to improve our specific lanes, our specific roles, then we have a chance of reaching that goal of equality."