New England's Devin McCourty is more than one of the league's most accomplished safeties. He's one of the players' most accomplished spokesmen, effecting political change through something called the Players Coalition -- a group of NFL players intent on addressing social injustices and turning protests into action.
Recently, McCourty and others addressed juvenile justice reform in the state of Massachusetts, with McCourty and Jonathan Kraft -- Patriots' president and son of team owner Robert Kraft -- co-authoring an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe calling for change after the younger Kraft admitted he wasn't aware of the problem until McCourty and players brought it to his attention.
Now, state politicians say the advocacy of athletes like McCourty has the legislature closer to juvenile incarceration reform.
But there's more. McCourty also appeared with three other players -- including Coalition co-founder Malcom Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles -- at a recent Harvard Law School symposium on criminal justice reform, with the four comprising a keynote panel on athletes and activism.
In short, Devin McCourty and the Players Coalition have become voices for activism and reform. So when Houston owner Bob McNair said "playing fields are not places for political statements," the Talk of Fame Network turned to McCourty for his thoughts ... and let's just say they didn't coincide with McNair.
"We have a ton of league rules," he said on the latest broadcast, "that we have to follow that come in our handbook. And as long as we do that, I think there is no problem.
"(But) to say that's not the place ... I think we all found out over these last two years that it's definitely the place because guys have gotten a lot of things done with protesting on the field and standing up for what they believe in and using that platform with millions of people watching and thousands of people in attendance at the games.
"I think now people that actually care about what we're talking about and trying to listen and learn to what we're saying ... I think they're even blown away by some of the statistics that are coming out and realizing that they need to get involved."
The Players Coalition was co-founded by Jenkins and former wide receiver Anquan Boldin to represent NFL players protesting social injustice and seeking reform. But it splintered last fall when former 49ers' safety Eric Reid, then-Miami safety Michael Thomas and Chargers' tackle Russell Okung announced they were leaving because of differences with the group and its direction.
Nevertheless, the Coalition has pushed forward, with the group making an impact in Massachusetts with state legislators, community leaders and academic experts -- and the Patriots' McCourty front and center in those talks. And that's important to recognize because, as McCourty pointed out, because this is all about trying to facilitate social reform -- and has nothing to do with the U.S. military or its actions.
"Like we've all been saying from the beginning, this has nothing to do with our military," said McCourty. "We all strongly support our military and are very thankful for what they do. And now I think people have (dived) into it. Now every time one of the owners says something that doesn't make sense it spotlights the work that we're doing and gives people an opportunity to check out the real thing."