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Devin McCourty Takes Charge On Social Justice, Racial Equality In First Press Conference Of 2020 Season

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Longtime Patriots captain Devin McCourty spoke to the media on Sunday afternoon for his first "press conference" -- via video chat -- with the New England media. He was not messing around.

The video chat began with a question about whether or not McCourty has made his final decision on playing or opting out for the 2020 season. With eight teammates already opting out, and with three Super Bowl victories on his resume, it would seemingly be sensible for the 32-year-old to potentially skip the season or even retire.

McCourty, respectfully, did not care to answer the question so much as he sought to speak on a few topics that he felt to be important.

Rather than edit those comments down, here they are in their entirety:

I appreciate the question, but I'm gonna 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 continue to play football and doing all of this ... and having fun doing it. Obviously, me and my family have been through a lot this year already, but I've always said as you guys have known over the last couple of 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. Just want to talk about things that have been going on in our country. I think one of the biggest things that you've heard some other 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 to the wrong house.

Something we fought for here in Massachusetts, equal education, with COVID-19 and all the different things that have showed 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. I see us trying to do something like that in the future as a team.

Obviously the healthcare inequality that's 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 I hope our team gets behind. I mean really, our team's 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 a police force and just learning about their journey and 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, that they get the fair treatment. I think that all officers, 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 who 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.

I think lastly and most importantly is seeing a change in the sport that 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 positions, at GMs, at 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 at 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 and we have great conversations all throughout the spring. And I just want to make sure that we start, and everything's about so many different things and I just want to make sure we stay locked in on that.

At that point, McCourty did get around to discussing the matter of opt-outs, though he did so by criticizing the league for trying to change the dates of the deadline for players to opt out of the season.

I guess the only other thing I'll say about football is, a lot of respect to those guys -- obviously the guys that I've gotten the chance to play with over the years who decided to opt out. I've gotten to speak to all those guys and it is a tough decision right now with everything going on what you want to do as far as your family. 

But I think for those guys, they made tough decisions, and a lot of people around are asking us how we feel about them. They made a hard decision to forego your contract this year, to not 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 were involved in a lot of football games together and have gone through a lot of different things personally. And those guys will still be my friends, 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, 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 and help out the CBA? Well 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 you guys know, Monday will be our first day in the building. So to try to act like guys are making their decision [based on] something other than virtual meetings is a joke.

But I think it's something that we go through as players, and we want players to understand how much power we have. We've seen things change for us, primarily with the deal with the COVID-19 ... hopefully we'll see how everything turns out come Wednesday, if it ends up being the deadline. But I'll support guys no matter what they decide. 

With that, McCourty exited the chat, having said all he wanted to say on this particular day. It certainly won't be the last time he speaks so directly and so passionately about the issues he feels he can help change.

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