Kraft, McCourty, Harmon and others host journalist panel Players Coalition gathers at Walpole High School for social justice discussion

The Players Coalition—a group comprising of National Football League (NFL) players who promote criminal justice reformation—hosted a panel at Walpole High School (WHS) on Wednesday, April 25 to discuss their viewpoints regarding juvenile justice in front of high school journalists from various towns in Massachusetts.

The panel consisted of Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots; Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, safeties for the New England Patriots and Players Coalition members; Matt Cregor, member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice; Judge Gloria Tan of the Middlesex Division of the Massachusetts Juvenile Court; and Jonathan Kraft, Robert Kraft’s son and President of the New England Patriots and the Kraft Group.

The panelists pose for a group photo. (Photo/Sydney Weinacht)

Daniel Medwed, the moderator and professor of Law & Justice at Northeastern University, began by asking Robert Kraft for his reaction to the Meek Mill case, as Robert was involved. Mill was arrested originally for illegal possession of a firearm and subsequently for violating his parole.

Members discuss topics including juvenile incarceration. (Photo/ Emily Smith)

“I had the chance to visit [Meek Mill] in jail, and it brought home to me the unfairness of the criminal justice system, seeing a young man who was falsely arrested when he was 19 and for such a minor infraction,” Robert said. “We have to correct that and make sure that all people are treated the same under the criminal justice system.”

The group discussed their experiences with advocating for criminal and juvenile justice reform. Recently, the Players Coalition wrote an Op-Ed for The Boston Globe addressing the need to raise the age of incarceration for youths from 7 to 12 and on April 13, Governor Baker signed the bill into law. In discussing the importance of that issue, Harmon shared his interactions with his six-year-old son.

“When I learned that children were being charged and arrested at seven years old, I told my son ‘I know you are a child, but because of the color of your skin there will always be disparities in this world and judicial system. When you go to school, I want you to always act your best, not because you are a bad kid, but because in the world that we live in, there is a bias. But your dad is going to do the best he can to create change,’” Harmon said.

"I know you are a child, but because of the color of your skin there will always be disparities in this world and judicial system," Harmon said. (Photo/ Sydney Weinacht)

Although Massachusetts has a relatively low incarceration rate, it has an overrepresentation of people of color in prisons. Medwed noted that African-Americans specifically represent 26% of Massachusetts’ convicted population. Statistics show this unconscious bias correlates in the classroom when biased teachers negatively impact the self-image of colored students.

“School is a chance to develop and find out who you are, and once you start to criminalise behavior as a young kid, your ideas of yourself start to shape,” McCourty said.

(Photo/ Emily Smith)

Student journalists got their chance to interact with the panel during a Q&A at the end of the night.

“I enjoyed hearing about the perspectives and think there’s a lot we can do on the student end of it.” WHS senior Dana DeMartino said.

The Players Coalition plans on holding more events and providing resources regarding their mission to promote awareness of criminal justice issues.

“It’s important that we acknowledge that there’s things that are wrong, not the whole country is wrong, but there are things that can be fixed,” McCourty said. “The Players Coalition is an awesome experience to find some purpose and make a change.”

Members of the Players Coalition pose together after the presentation. (Photo/ Sydney Weinacht)

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