With the first media availability of training camp came plenty of questions about what's gone on during the offseason, the NFL's new national anthem policy included.
The New England media asked Devin McCourty his thoughts on the new policy, and though he didn't share an opinion, he used the opportunity to explain how he and his teammates have taken action in the community to make a difference in the realm of social justice.
"I think for us and I know for me, a lot of what I’ve focused on has been what you’ve seen throughout the offseason, doing different things, a DA forum, different op-eds. That will continue to be my focus," Devin said. "So, with the anthem policy, we’ll see how it comes out and what happens, but the work off the field, to me, is what’s been very encouraging throughout the league, seeing guys in different cities doing things."
He said along with the Players Coalition, he and Jason McCourty, Matthew Slater and Duron Harmon have been working off the field and in the community to discuss issues like criminal justice reform, social justice causes and supporting funding in underfunded schools.
In fact, the day before speaking to media, Devin, his brother Jason and Matthew published another op-ed regarding school funding in Massachusetts. In the essay, the Patriots use their platform to support funding schools that are unfunded.
According to US News and World Report for education (cited in their article), 70 percent of Massachusetts black and Latino third graders read below grade level and 80 percent for ESL (English as a second language) students. Yet these are the populations that are being under-served financially.
"Reading ability is a key predictor of future educational success. Any missed opportunity to invest in our kids stunts all of our collective futures," they wrote. "When we provide adequate educational resources for all children, we provide a foundation, an opportunity for success regardless of the child’s background."
The op-ed argues in favor of a bill passed by the State Senate, which included recommendations from the Foundation Budget Review Committee that would "alter the way budget costs are calculated so that they match the realities of our school system." Not all of these recommendations were accepted by the House, instead focusing on research "to better fund education for ESL and low income students."
Soon the Senate and the House will meet to discuss both bills and come up with a solution.
"What is the message we want to send to our most vulnerable students in our most impoverished communities? Do we use the best available knowledge to do our best to improve the foundation of all of our children? Or do we tell our children to sit and wait while we do more research," they wrote. "The state has already invested significant resources in the FBRC, a committee of key stakeholders. If we are complacent, will our children in less affluent circumstances fall farther and farther behind? All of our children deserve an equal chance at success regardless of their economic backgrounds. Shouldn’t our policies reflect that?"
In light of the issues raised by demonstrations, players have often been asked what they do in the community to further social justice causes, and Devin said that across the country, NFL players have been working in communities with the Players Coalition. Devin said there just needs to be a consistent spotlight on their work.
"It just needs more coverage. You know? Just keep giving us more coverage," Devin said to the media. "I think the more it’s written about and talked about, I think it comes to the forefront."