Devin McCourty details drawing ‘inspiration and motivation’ from Bill Russell

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Devin McCourty is one of the more socially and politically active New England Patriots players in the last decade, with the safety taking time to show support for a restructuring of Massachusetts’ juvenile system and joining and organizing the Players Coalition, a group of NFL players focused on fighting systemic inequality.

And so it was fitting to see that McCourty asked if he could speak with the media on Monday, just one day after the passing of Bill Russell, who was as much a champion for the Black community as he was for the Boston Celtics. McCourty explained what Russell meant to him.

“Just his willingness and vulnerability to be very open about what he went through and wanted to change,” McCourty said. “I think as an athlete and player in this area, I drew a lot of inspiration and motivation from how he viewed things. I think the road that he paved for Black athletes to be successful in this city — in sports in general.”

McCourty added: “I think all of us here strive to be like Bill Russell. … To go out there and just stand up for what you believe in and to go through some terrible things and then turn around and say, ‘Hey this is wrong. Let’s change this.'”

McCourty was hardly the only player that Russell impacted. Patriots special teams standout and captain Matthew Slater also spoke on Russell’s legacy.

“It’s really hard to put into words what a man like Bill Russell has not only obviously meant to this city but has meant to professional sports, has meant to Black athletes and just the progress that we’ve seen in this country. … When I think of Bill Russell, I don’t think of necessarily the championships or the Celtics and the winning — which I think is a legacy that speaks for itself. I think of what he did for Black athletes and I’m a beneficiary of the actions of men and women like Bill Russell who were willing to step out on a limb and advocate for Black athletes and Black Americans and really push for change and push for equality.

“I can’t imagine having to have gone through the things he had to go through, especially early on in his life and his career. The reality is that he wasn’t even seen as a full citizen in this country when he started his life — so really think about that. … When I think about Bill Russell, I celebrate that part of his legacy more than anything else.”

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Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire