When it comes to the racial and social injustices that plague our country and communities, some Patriots players have known exactly what they want to say and what they want to do create change, but even veteran Patriots struggled to find words on Thursday.
In the wake of police shooting Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc., as well as the murder of two protesters at the hands of a 17-year-old gunman, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty and James White addressed the media, and the three locker room leaders expressed what so many people are feeling.
Hopelessness. Heartbreak. Numbness. Exhaustion. Loss.
None of the three players were originally scheduled to speak to the media on Thursday, but did so specifically to address the racism, police brutality and inequities that have dominated conversations this year. After strikes and protests across the NBA, WNBA and MLB Wednesday night, as well as other NFL teams canceling football activities, athletes are -- and have historically been – feel a responsibility to take a stance.
While this moment is no different, Jason McCourty stressed that, right now, they are searching for answers themselves.
"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 ... We have no idea what's the right move," he said. "What can I possibly do to change the system that's been in place for so many years?"
Jason was not alone in that sentiment.
"Sometimes you feel stuck, you don't know who to talk to, you don't know what to do. But I think guys and girls across all sports are trying to do whatever they can to make an impact, make a change," White said. "I think a lot of people truly care, it's not just one subject, it's not just police brutality, 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."
After having difficult conversations with teammates, friends and family after George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were murdered earlier this year, being back in this same spot again months later reminded Devin of a common coaching phrase. "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse."
This idea, he said, can apply to this current moment.
"It's just like, we leave out when you turn on that video, you are watching humans. Like, this isn't a movie. This isn't a video game. You're watching real life," Devin said. "You are watching someone get shot in the back seven times. This is real. You're watching a kid walk around – not someone trained – but 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 life goes, if things don't get better, yeah, they will start to get worse."
White also touched on the lingering fear Black people have walking through the world. It could be me or it could be someone I love whose murder millions witness as they scroll through their Twitter feed.
"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, that could be one of my best friends. It just hurts," he said. "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."
As fathers, this means knowing one day, they will have to have "the talk" with their children, the same talk their parents gave them with the hope that it just may one day be easy for a Black person to move through the country without fear.
"Everybody doesn't have to have that conversation, and I do, and I'm going to have that one day," Jason said. "And it breaks my heart because my parents had to have that conversation with me, and my grandparents had to have that conversation with my parents. At what point, at what generation, do we get to stop having those conversations?"
As for the team's decision to carry on with practice, the consensus is it can be difficult to compartmentalize, but Jason said that getting to work can provide a distraction of its own from what's going on outside Gillette Stadium. But that also means confronting guilt.
"I think sometimes that can be a good thing because it allows you the freedom to go out there and just be who you are and do what you love, and I think as soon as it's over, you're right back to reality. It's almost a sense of guilt that, hey, I'm able to go out there and I'm able to escape what's really going on here," Jason said. "For Jacob Blake's three children, who sat in the car and watched their father get shot seven times, where do you go to escape that feeling? Where do you go to erase that sight? Where do you go to deal with that type of trauma?"
These questions do not have simple answers, and it will take more than athletes standing up. When asked if he felt there was an undue burden on athletes to also be activist, Devin said there is definitely pressure to use the platform they have and speak up.
"I saw something Draymond Green posted about why should athletes stop playing and be the only people to stop playing when why doesn'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 for athletes to cancel games and stop going to work? I read that and I was like, man like that's another interesting point," Devin said. "Like, that makes sense. It's just that feeling of right now, as an athlete, almost everything makes sense, but it's just like is that the answer? None of us know that."
Even if where to go next is unclear, White said people need to be better. Period.
"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," White said. "But I think it's very powerful and a good first step what the NBA is doing. We just have to do better."
You can read the full transcripts from all three press conferences here.