Amid the national protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death, Patriots’ running back James White anticipates that some of his fellow teammates will join in and protest peacefully. He’s not quite sure what that will look like, but he understands how important these causes are to them as a team.
“I’m sure we will figure something out as a team,” White said in a video conference call on Thursday. “I’m not exactly sure what that will be but I’m sure guys will peacefully protest in some type of form or fashion. Colin Kaepernick was trying to raise awareness for situations like these a while back and people have continued to raise awareness about it, but now the world is seeing how a bunch of people feel and I think everybody’s trying to understand and get a better grasp of everything so things can change in a positive manner.”
In 2017, he and some of his teammates, including Brandin Cooks, Devin McCourty, Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler and others, all knelt during the national anthem in a game against the Houston Texans. Joining the movement led by Kaepernick, the Patriots’ protests garnered a range of reactions from former players while Kaepernick’s sparked a national controversy.
White said looking back, he feels like other NFL players might have been too scared and shy to speak up about or talk about these issues then.
“Peoples’ awareness wasn’t as heightened back then. I think a couple of our teammates, we just wanted to stand with Kap [Colin Kaepernick]. We understood what he was trying to protest and being black people in America, we understood exactly what he was talking about. It was difficult at the time. Some people might not have understood and some people just didn’t want to understand. Like I said, with everything going on in the world today, I think it’s important for people to educate themselves, do a little research, and just find ways to understand how America works.”
“When Kap first did it as a protest, some people didn’t have the courage or whatever it might have been to speak out or talk about it,” he added. “The NBA made their stance on it and everything but I think a lot of guys in the NFL were kind of shy or kind of scared to speak their mind, but now since more and more people are speaking out and everybody’s sharing their stories and how they feel, whether they’re white, black, Latino… [Inaudible]. I think it’s important that everybody understands one another. That’s how the world works. We have to work together to understand and make things better.”
Patriots RB James White, on a video conference with 41 overall participants, flashes a smile. White fielded questions on team discussions following George Floyd’s death, saying that while no decision has been made, he is sure some players will peacefully protest in some fashion. pic.twitter.com/WG6U1kL7GC
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) June 11, 2020
Having grown up with a father who served in law enforcement, White said he understands both perspectives but is also aware that what happened to George Floyd could happen to him or anyone who is a person of color. He firmly believes that it’s important to keep educational dialogues and conversations going, even if they can be emotionally taxing.
“My dad taught always me, even though he is a cop, things of that nature, in his uniform job, a black man in society, those things that happened to George Floyd can happen to me, can happen to my dad, can happen to any person of color in this world. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or what job you have, if somebody feels the need, that they are more important or that they have more power than you and try to make a statement or whatever they’re doing, they can take somebody’s life. My dad always made me aware of what I should do when I get pulled over and things of that nature and how to treat cops. I see both sides and I’ve heard a lot of stories from my dad from that perspective, so it helped shape me growing up.
“It can be a little mentally exhausting but like I said, the more we can explain, the more we can help somebody understand. Different situations that different people deal with in America, it’s only going to help make things better. Everybody should educate themselves a little bit more on the black history of America, including myself. Get a better understanding of how laws work, how racism works, how different states have different laws. There are probably some laws that some people might not know exist but the more we can learn, the more educated we’ll be and the more we can help each other out.”
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As a black person in America all we ask is to be treated justly. We breathe and bleed the same way as everyone else. When we say “black lives matter” it is to raise awareness for the unjust treatment that we have been dealing with for far too long. It doesn’t mean we hate America or the flag, it also doesn’t mean we are more important than any other race. Of course ALL lives matter. We simply want to see changes because we can’t keep seeing things like innocent people being killed or beaten by the police or even being racially profiled by fellow Americans( just to name a few). We don’t want to be “feared “or seen as a “threat”. We want young black kids to feel like they matter in our society and that they don’t have to feel inferior because the color of their skin. We have to make a change! We all can make a difference! #blacklivesmatter #nojusticenopeace
He believes that NFL players can also inspire college and younger athletes to help the community, and thanked the Patriots organization, such as teammate Devin McCourty, who was recently named the Boston Uncornered “2020 Champion of the Year”, and team owner Robert Kraft.
“I think the younger generation is learning from the older generation. The more that the NFL guys speak out, it will leak down to the college level. In college, we were very active in the community and college guys should be more active in the community and speak out and let the world know how they feel. Try and make the world a better place, I think that’s what it’s about and that’s what it comes down to.
“The Patriots organization has always been behind its players. Mr. Kraft has been doing things like this even before this situation arose. A lot of the guys on the team have been working actively in the community – guys like Devin and Jason McCourty, Matt Slater – they have been going out to try and get laws changed to help the youth and things of that nature. They’ve always showed a great example of what should be done and how things should be done to make positive change in the world. It’s good to have that veteran leadership and the leadership of Mr. Kraft. When you walk into the building you learn the outreach they try to make in the community and trying to make positive change. You learn from day one, as soon as you step in.”
The team has also been participating in important conversations within their virtual meetings, such as speaking with Rahsaan Hall, director of the racial justice program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, last week.
“It was cool to speak to him. He works with Devin [McCourty] often and last year they had a law change that prevented young juveniles from [getting] jobs and things of that nature. Devin McCourty and him are very actively trying to make positive change in the Boston community. His message was pretty much the same as what I was saying and that’s to educate people, educate yourself, so the world has a better understanding so that we can make change in a positive light. It’s not going to change one day just because of protests for two days. We have to actively go out and speak to governors, politicians, all those people so they can hear our voices so things can change as soon as possible because it needs to happen.”
White also feels that head coach Bill Belichick has been trying his best to understand what is going on, and has supported his players.
“It’s awesome. Coach has an open mind and he understands everything that’s going on and some people are upset. He wanted to get a better grasp on things, we all wanted to get a better grasp on things. So, it was very cool to have him understand everything that’s going on and how different players feel differently and kind of form a common ground.”
As far as whether White or his teammates have discussed and/or joined the voting rights group, “More than a Vote”, that is being led by LeBron James and other professional black athletes and entertainers, White said that they have not. However, they do plan on continuing to find ways to support the community and enact change.
“Me and my teammates have not spoken about it directly but I’m sure the conversations will pick up and we’ll all talk about how we can make a change in our community and the world in a positive way,” he said. “A lot of people are speaking out. A lot of people are trying to do a lot of different things. The Players Coalition is trying to get rid of qualified immunity, things of that nature. Just small steps. Rome wasn’t changed in a day and everything’s not going to change in one day. We have to keep pushing at it and keep working together to make things happen.”