Matthew Slater, McCourty bros lead Dorchester roundtable on criminal justice reform

Shia Springer / WBUR

Over the past few years, activism in the NFL has reached new heights--despite some opposition, many players are unifying to fight for disadvantaged communities and to work towards police and criminal justice reform across the nation. The Patriots have no shortage of leaders for these social causes, either. Recently, Jason and Devin McCourty teamed up with Matthew Slater to moderate a conference on local criminal justice reform with five candidates for Suffolk County DA.

The roundtable, held in Dorchester at Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, was orchestrated by The Players Coalition. While born out of last year's anthem protests, the Coalition represents a diverse group of players from around the league committed to broader community-improvement goals. The group has recently set up similar meetings for players with candidates for local office around the country.

While the conversation occasionally got a bit excited (at one point, Jason McCourty implored the audience to "try to be respectful"), reforming Boston's penal system and forming safer communities remained the constant focus. The players were prepared and knowledgeable as they sought ways to improve the relationships between police and residents in local neighborhoods and manage the mass incarceration crisis.

The players also offered their own perspectives on the issue. Devin McCourty said, "Us as professional athletes, we feel like we're citizens first. We're in these communities, we live in these communities, we get to be a part of them. Meeting people, greeting people. We felt like it was our right to worry about equality and how people are being treated in these communities . . .Hopefully us being here and what we do on the field brings a lot of people out here to get educated. They're the ones come September have to come out and vote."

Meanwhile, his brother Jason offered that "For us as athletes, it's important to see that you have an impact. People do want to hear your voice. To see different members of the community to come out, and to probably feel like they'll be heard, and maybe we're asking some of the same questions that they have. I think it has been exciting. And it's encouraging to know that you can make a difference and you do have an impact. [It's important] to kind of roll up your sleeves, and continue to dig in, and continue to try to, for us, make strides and improve and do things that we can to help the communities that we play in."

Finally, Matthew Slater acknowledged the nerves and emotions present in the debate, noting that "I think that's what it's all about: passion. People are people that end up making a difference. I just kept telling myself I'm moderator, stay calm, stay cool and allow this thing to play out."

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