Last week, I wrote that it was “fair to wonder” how forceful Bill Belichick would be in support of social justice causes during the racial reckoning we are witnessing Tuesday night, Belichick made a statement about it. And now it’s fair to follow up on that.
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Speaking during a virtual event honoring safety Devin McCourty and raising funds for an organization McCourty has partnered with called “Boston Uncornered,” Belichick said he would “increase” his role in supporting social justice. McCourty, Belichick said, was his inspiration for doing so.
"Conversations across our country and within our team will help lead to paving the way for a better future,” Belichick said, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “Following your lead, and the example of other incredible men on our team, I look forward to increasing my role in this process. Healthy discussion leads to actions. And actions that you have brought to the forefront have resulted in progress."
Belichick did enable conversations within the team last week. After my column was posted, a nugget was dropped saying that Belichick was “a part of discussions” during virtual team meetings. Matthew Slater told Phil Perry on the Next Pats Podcast that Belichick was open to the talks and listened. It was reported that Belichick had Rashaan Hall, director of the ACLU’s racial justice program in Massachusetts, speak to the team.
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It was a cascade of nuggets and round of public congratulations followed. But for one player, there was still some ambiguity as to how far Belichick would go.
He wondered if the column I wrote would make Belichick say something publicly. When I followed up about Belichick’s role in the team conversations, he said: “I don’t know his personal thoughts, but he definitely let the discussion go on.”
Tuesday night’s statement is a concrete, public representation of where Belichick stands.
I heard it Friday and I’m sure to hear it again today and for the rest of the week. “Bill Belichick doesn’t owe anyone an explanation, statement or vow.”
Well, that’s easy for you to say. Whether he “owed” it or not, where he stood and what he would do to help was something some of his players wanted to know.
Tuesday night, Belichick DID say something. He didn’t rend his garments. But he did pledge greater involvement.
Will that be vocal? The weight of Belichick’s words is greater than anybody else in the NFL, almost anyone in the country.
He’s 68. He grew up in Annapolis. His respect and devotion to the Naval Academy, his sense of history, his pride in America are all well-documented. For 45 years, he’s worked in an industry unlike any other when it comes to racial dynamics. His “brand” is hard work, discipline, preparation, doing one’s job and not seeking fanfare, limelight or congratulations.
There’s a disconnect between what players are protesting for – racial justice – and what their protests are being bastardized to represent – disrespecting the flag, the anthem or the military.
I can’t think of any voice that would speak to Americans resistant to understanding the difference than Bill Belichick’s.
Does Belichick “increasing his role” mean he’d go that far? I don’t know. But on Tuesday night, a good, powerful and persuasive man said he was in. No qualifiers. And the fair thing to do is highlight it.