By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Patriots safety Devin McCourty thinks this offseason will include a more open and meaningful dialogue between NFL players and league officials after a series of player-led demonstrations during the national anthem this season attempted to raise awareness for social issues.
“I think it’s been incredible because when all these issues came up people talked about it being a big distraction. And you look around now, you look around and you’ve got it’s like 4 or 5 different guys in the player’s coalition that have done different things and are playing in the Super Bowl,” McCourty said Monday at Super Bowl media night. “So obviously you can do both. Players have shown throughout the years, whether it be community service work, charities – that you can do more than just play football.”
McCourty was one of several NFL players to engage in protests during the national anthem to draw attention to issues such as police brutality and racial inequality.
NFL owners and executives met with players, who formed a Players Coalition in October before the league’s fall meetings in New York. There also were extensive phone conversations to get an idea of how the league could address the players’ concerns.
In December the NFL agreed to commit $90 million over the next seven years to social justice causes in a three-segment plan that involves league players. The agreement was criticized by some players who disagreed with Eagles safety and founder Malcolm Jenkins choosing to exclude Colin Kaepernick from its meetings, and felt the agreement was a means to stop the anthem protests. But McCourty, still a member of the coalition, said he believes the NFL’s overtures are genuine.
He said the leadership from Jenkins, who he will face in Sunday’s Super Bowl, has remained strong.
“I think he’s been incredible just for the fact that he put so much time in,” McCourty said. “He just had a daughter I think a week ago. He’s still on phone calls, he’s still being leader of the coalition. So it’s been great to me almost for a year now to link on with those guys – him and Anquan (Boldin), what they’ve started.
“I think that for a lot of us it’s just being able to add to it and bring whatever our passions and feeling are to it from what he’s already started. I think sky’s the limit for what the coalition can be.”
McCourty also has an appreciation for the different voices brought into the conversation throughout this season.
He was one of the players originally invited into meetings with owners, and he said Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his son, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, are still keeping communication lines open.
“We’ve been really fortunate here. Whether it’s me talking to Robert Kraft or Jonathan Kraft -they’re very receptive,” McCourty said. “They want to be involved. Jonathan came with us to Harvard Law School. It seems like it’s gonna be a really good step. I think it’s been really good to get the NFL involved. Because it’s a huge resource being in the NFL. There’s no reason not to have them involved…It’s bigger than just coming together. It shows what the NFL can be about.”
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