THE CANDIDATES FOR Suffolk County district attorney may think twice before trying to slip past the moderators of an upcoming forum on the race. That’s because the questions will come from a trio that knows something about stopping even the fanciest of footwork.
Three tackling standouts with the New England Patriots will pose questions to the DA hopefuls at a Dorchester middle school next week.
Team co-captain and star free safety Devin McCourty, his twin brother, cornerback Jason McCourty, and co-captain and special team maestro Matthew Slater will moderate the event sponsored by the Players Coalition. The coalition is an initiative through which the NFL has committed $90 million to efforts led by players to address social justice issues.
Five Democrats are running in the September 4 primary: Evandro Carvalho, Linda Champion, Greg Henning, Shannon McAuliffe, and Rachael Rollins. The winner will face unenrolled candidate Michael Maloney in the November election. In February, Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley, who has been in office for 16 years, announced he would not seek another term this fall.
The forum next week is part of a Players Coalition project dubbed Launching Justice, which is working to spotlight criminal justice reform issues, including the critical role played by district attorneys and the importance of DA elections.
Last month, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins moderated a forum in the race for Sacramento County district attorney in California. The same week, Richard Sherman of the San Francisco 49ers and Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks posed questions at a forum in Oakland with a candidate for Alameda County district attorney.
Involvement in district attorney races and criminal justice reform issues is part of an effort by players to go beyond the broad statement on racial justice that some have sought to make by “taking a knee” during the national anthem before games, said Devin McCourty.
He shared his thoughts last month in an episode of CommonWealth’s podcast. “Race is a huge issue,” McCourty said. “I think we’re starting to see that we have a platform that can create change.”
In March, McCourty, along with former Patriots player Troy Brown and former Pittsburgh Steeler Ulish Booker, went to the State House to lobby for changes in laws governing juvenile offenders. The players wanted to see the age of juvenile court jurisdiction raised and see the lower age when children can first be brought into the juvenile court system increased from 7 to 12.
The criminal justice reform bill passed by the Legislature and signed in April by Gov. Charlie Baker delivered on half of that, with the measure raising the floor for juvenile court cases to those 12 and older.
The podcast with McCourty was recorded prior to the NFL owners adopting a new policy in late May that requires players to stand on the sidelines during the national anthem, but gives them the option of remaining in the locker room during that time if they prefer.
In the conversation, McCourty called President Trump’s criticism of players who kneel “a shot at our league and the players in it.”
He said at the time that the Players Coalition hoped to organize a forum with the Suffolk DA candidates. He said NFL players have already made a difference in raising the visibility of DA races elsewhere in the country by moderating forums. People may “come just to see or meet the football player,” McCourty said, but the result is that they “listen to the different candidates and get out there and vote.”
The Players Coalition doesn’t endorse candidates. It’s not about “backing a certain candidate, but just getting people to go and learn and see how they can affect their own communities,” said McCourty.
The forum will be take place next Tuesday, from 6:30 to 8: 30 pm, at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester.