Cam Newton has been energetic and buoyant at training camp since joining the New England Patriots, but his tone changed Wednesday.
Newton was asked at the end of his video conference with reporters how he was processing the shooting of James Blake, an unarmed Black man who was shot multiple times by a white police officer Sunday in Kenosha, Wisc.
"It's just disheartening," Newton responded before referencing comments Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers made Tuesday night about Black people "loving this country" and the country "not lov(ing) us back."
"What's going on in this country of ours at times is extremely disgusting. And until we find a fix, then more than ever we have to unify as one as much as possible," Newton added. "From the Black Lives Matter campaign to the social injustice, bringing awareness with that, to just everybody becoming more aware of certain things, and not necessarily turning their ear, turning their face with things that are extremely blatant."
Newton then stressed the importance of athletes speaking out against racial injustice and continuing a dialog with his Patriots teammates about social issues.
"We have to use our platform to raise awareness for issues like this," Newton said. "We're going through so much from COVID-19 -- this is an election year with voting and making everybody aware to vote -- and having issues that still are pertinent in our society and our community and (we're) still not seeing things done. You just have to stay focused and impact the things that you can impact most.
"For me, I do try to bring awareness to the environment I'm in each and every day from my children, from having open discussions in the locker room, not just with all Black players, with Caucasians as well, or whatever the race may be. I think that's the start the we can all impact change in our own right."
The 31-year-old quarterback should find plenty of allies in New England: Several Patriots players have done important social justice work this offseason as members of the Players' Coalition, while team leaders like defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty and running back James White have pushed to end systematic racism amid protests that have continued throughout the summer.