FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – One of the goals of this platform was to take you behind the scenes at times to get a feel for what it’s like covering the Patriots, and also, to share things from the locker room to help you gain a better understanding with what’s happening with the team.
With this in mind, I wanted to share, in full Q&A form, a discussion I had with third-year safety Jordan Richards on Wednesday afternoon on the hot topic of the week. Richards, 24, was one of the Patriots who knelt during the national anthem before Sunday’s game.
Q: How is everyone doing in light of recent events?
Richards: “I’m going to speak for myself on this. The thing that hurt most for me, personally; it’s not that President Trump said it outright, but to me, it felt like he insinuated that we’re football players and the people in the stands are here to be entertained, and to me, I think of myself as much more than just entertainment. Underneath that helmet and those shoulder pads, there’s a person in there too. I think that you need to respect that as well. We’re people as well.
“Yes, we have a job that is more visible than others, but I don’t take my job to be more important than anybody else’s job. Everybody’s working. Everybody is their own unique person, with their own unique background and experiences of life. I’m trying my best to soften my heart with certain things, and even believe the best in people. We all have a story. Nobody’s story is better or more important or more valuable than others, no matter if there are millions of people watching you on TV, or thousands showing up to watch you do what you’re doing, or nobody is seeing you. We’re all people. Our job doesn’t define us, no matter what the job is. That’s what hurt for me personally when he said it. It felt like we were defined by our job.”
Q: Where do things go from here, in terms of this group inside the locker room?
Richards: “Part of it is trying your best to advance the conversation and stay away from; I think it’s easy to choose the ‘this is the hill I’m going to die on – it’s kneel or stand.’ I think we’re trying to push ourselves to have the harder conversation, and part of that is listening to people who may not agree with you, may not understand your viewpoint. Nothing is going to change if nobody is willing to listen. You’re just going to end up throwing stones at one another from our sides.
“For any societal change or struggle for lack of a better word, you have to be willing to listen. I can’t stand on whatever my side is and refuse to listen to somebody else and think that they owe it to me to listen when I don’t want to listen to them.
“It takes softening of my own heart; I’m going to be honest. It’s trying to get out of being angry and more move towards ‘I’m going to believe the best in people and maybe I feel like [their viewpoint] is wrong, but I’m not going to dismiss it outright.’ That’s a process for all of us. I think the important thing is that people are having conversations. I’d like to hope that we’re having conversations with people that don’t necessarily agree with us, and are willing to have those conversations.”
Q: What have the conversations been like within the team?
Richards: “Not to talk too much about that, it’s been positive. You can’t say that everybody, even on our own team, has the same viewpoint, has the same stance on it all. It challenges us to grow together and it really challenges, ‘Are we brothers like we say we are? Or is that just a cool term to use in a pre-game huddle?’
“Not to speak for the team, [but] I really think this team has responded well to that, respecting one another, and how another may feel. I think that grows you stronger as a group of men here.”
Q: There is so much attention paid to before the game – who’s standing, who’s kneeling, who has their arms locked. What happens going forward with this team?
“I think it’s going to continue to be a process. I think the thing I’d like personally, as it relates to my name – not to make it about me — is that everybody is working through it; everybody is trying to process through it. It may not be for everybody – ‘this is how I feel, this is what I’m going to do, this is what I’m always going to do.’ Some of those things may change. It may change as conversations happen. It may change as you get to reflect and take a step back during the week and continue to analyze it and let your heart speak, and speak with other people.
“I don’t think it’s a this-side or that-side [issue]. I’d like it to be a fluid conversation and so that may mean what somebody does on Sunday may not be what they do two Sundays from now. I don’t think that advances the conversation. I think that gets people living in the past – ‘this is what they did, so this is what I’m assuming.’ I’d like to think as we all continue to think it through and interact with one another, people have the right to gain new perspectives.”