Matthew Slater commends Bill Belichick for discussing recent events with players

Matthew Slater commends Bill Belichick for discussing recent events with players

Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are known for slogans like "No Days Off," but the team recently has shifted its focus from football to far more important matters.

The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing "Black Lives Matter" protests that have taken place across the United States rightfully have made sports an afterthought.

So as part of the Patriots' virtual offseason workout program, Belichick and the players put football on the backburner to openly dicuss these recent events. According to NFL Network's Mike Giardi, a player said of Belichick, “We couldn’t do this without his leadership."

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On the latest episode of NBC Sports Boston's "Next Pats Podcast," Patriots veteran Matthew Slater commended Belichick for his role in the discussions and his ability to listen closely to what his players have to say.

"I think coach has a good, healthy understanding of the gravity of the situation and the times that we're living in," Slater said. "I think he's done a good job of trying to listen, trying to learn and hear from his players and try to navigate this as best as he can.

"Look, I understand what his job is. His job is to coach the football team and get the football team ready to be successful, and nothing's going to take his focus away from that. But I do think that it's important, as he has done, to hear from his players and understand that, 'Hey, at the end of the day, football is temporary.' What we're left with is who we are as people, the values and beliefs and our experiences, and the results of those experiences. That's what we're going to be left with.

"So I'm sure that he'll continue to be open and receptive to us having dialogue. I'm thankful for what he has done thus far as far as that process is concerned, and we'll just see how it goes as we press forward."

Hopefully, these conversations will continue to be held by teams across the league as the issue of racial injustice in the United States is brought to the forefront.

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Kraft family pledging $1 million to local organizations to fight systemic racism

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Kraft family pledging $1 million to local organizations to fight systemic racism

When the New England Patriots released a statement Tuesday night regarding George Floyd's death in Minneapolis last week, it included the message, "We will not rest on statements, because words without actions are void."

One of the first actions taken by Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family was announced Friday in a video posted on the team's official Twitter account.

The Kraft family has pledged to donate $1 million between different local organizations committed to ending systemic racism.

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“Over the next 10 months, the Kraft family is pledging $1 million in $100,000 monthly donations to local grassroots organizations -- chosen in collaboration with Patriots players -- that are fighting for equity, working to end systemic racism and creating meaningful change in our community. 

"Change always begins with listening and learning. These organizations will be invited to speak to our executive staff and senior management across the Kraft Group businesses so we can learn about their work and continue to grow in knowledge and awareness, especially among those in leadership positions."

Hey NFL, how about a 'Kaepernick was right' statement?

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Hey NFL, how about a 'Kaepernick was right' statement?

The Colin Kaepernick/NFL discussion has long been difficult, confusing and lacking specific information.

Did the owners send out some type of "eff this guy" memo? Does he want to play? Do non-sports fans understand that he was a declining player who had become a backup before he began his protest? What kind of contract does he want?

But the Colin Kaepernick/kneeling discussion? Clear as day.

He wanted to bring attention to unarmed black men who posed no threat being killed by police. And as we've learned time and again, he was painfully correct. 

So in this day of statements, where is the statement from the NFL or an NFL team acknowledging that Kaepernick was right? That there didn't need to be a division regarding his peaceful protest and that there shouldn't be going forward?

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This is coming from someone whose fandom for Kaepernick began when his NFL career (seemingly) ended.

Prior to 2016, I wasn't a fan of Colin Kaepernick because I didn’t think he was that good. I didn’t like him as a high draft pick in 2011, and though I was impressed along with everyone else when he reached the Super Bowl as a first-year starter in 2012, I felt vindicated when he proved to be a middle-of-the-pack quarterback (just one season of 20 touchdowns, and it was 21), before eventually becoming a backup.

Then he sat. Then he took a knee. I obviously didn’t share his perspective or experience [see: what I look like], but I supported the point he was trying to make, even as so many were unwilling to listen. When others began following suit, I supported it and wondered whether I would join them if I were... sorry, couldn’t get through a sentence imagining myself as a professional athlete without laughing.

When he opted out of his contract after the 2016 season, I wondered what his market would be, not just because he had started a movement that had ruffled feathers with owners, advertisers and fans, but because — and here's where it gets uncomfortable — I wouldn't have been jumping to sign the guy (for football reasons) if I were a GM.
When lesser quarterbacks signed for backup jobs, it was noted that they had a job, but Kaepernick didn't. I got that, but I also understood that they were signing for peanuts, whereas Kaepernick — like any competitor would — was probably thinking, "I was drafted at the top of the second and had a couple of good years in the beginning. I'm better than these bozos and should get paid."

There were reports that he wanted $10 million a year. That was Tom Brady's cap number in 2017. Drew Brees was making $19 million. Aaron Rodgers was making $20.3 million. Ten million bucks back then for a guy who'd compete to be a starter was too much.

So every time a bad quarterback signed and I saw Twitter explode with a "come on, THIS guy over Kaepernick?" I thought the situation was being misrepresented, because the contracts weren't the same.

Then the report about the $10 million was refuted. Then, after teams showed up to a workout in 2019, Kaepernick changed the location at the last second. Both sides took shots at each other, and the ordeal was interpreted a million different ways. So little information, only speculation. 

Now it's 2020. Kaepernick still isn't in the league and nobody knows whether the guy wants to play football — and if he does, for how much.

But here's what we do know: He was right, and you can be as "meh" on him as a player as I am and still get that. There should be zero people left who misinterpret his message as a shot at the troops.

Teams don't have to sign the guy to show they understand his point. And if these teams are really trying to do whatever they can, they can start with "it took a while, but we're listening."

You saw Martellus Bennett's tweets about some of the statements we've been seeing. He thinks they're hollow and opportunistic. I'll presume there are active players who are similarly skeptical.

This would not only reach players who have taken knees and caught flak, but people like Drew Brees, whose lack of understanding this week was staggering to anyone who has followed the kneeling story even remotely closely. It would be a positive step.

The conversation around Kaepernick has been cloudy and confusing at points, but there shouldn't be any confusion remaining about why he was taking that knee.

He was right, and it's about time the league acknowledged it.