A Harvard summit Friday caps a busy week for player activists

By Jacob Feldman
March 23, 2018

Demario Davis is hopeful. "I see a light of hope," he says via phone call from New Jersey, one day after visiting lawmakers in Albany, N.Y., and one day before sitting down with fellow players Friday at Harvard. After spending time in the New York state legislature, he feels good about the chances for a criminal justice reform push that would level the playing field for defendants in the state. But he's also optimistic on a larger scale. "We want to be a spark to ignite the rest of the country," Davis says. "People may not have the platform we have or the resources we have, but we all have something . . . we can allocate to help fix our country."

While most of the league slows down after free agency and settles into draft season, a select group of players has stayed busy with about a dozen current and former NFLers, including Josh Norman and Devin McCourty, attending a mix of educational and political events. It culminates at 9 a.m. Friday with a Harvard Law School symposium featuring players, district attorneys, and journalists. If the Players Coalition movement proves long-lasting, you'll be able to look back on this week as an early sign of its potential.

Davis said his activism had little effect on his free agency process as the former Jet signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Saints, but safety Eric Reid remains unclaimed, and players are suggesting it's a result of his connection to Colin Kaepernick's anthem protest. McCourty said as much Thursday, adding, "I think each player, whether it's Reid, Kaepernick, Malcolm Jenkins, myself—have all decided that the work we're doing is very important to us, and we're willing to put our voices out there." (For his part, Reid said Thursday that he likely would not protest during the national anthem in 2018.)

Davis makes it clear that he cares about the way his work—and this movement—is viewed publicly. "A lot of times what people perceive you to be doing is as important as what you are actually doing," he says. "The more and more we continue to do work and people start to really focus in on what we're actually doing in the community—and the hysteria around it all goes away—I think people will understand.

"We are very patriotic, we love our country and we want to see our country in a better place."

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1. Frank Gore is returning to Miami. Thirteen years after leaving the University of Miami, the 34-year-old running back reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins on Thursday. In other free agency news, the Eagles have added receiver Mike Wallace.

2. Following a successful pro day in the rain, Sam Darnold will be the No. 1 overall pick according to just about everybody, including those who are convinced by the fact his parents sat with Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.

3. The Steelers will likely try to replace Ryan Shazier in this spring's draft. Maybe Shazier, who was out scouting at the University of Pittsburgh's pro day, will help them do it.

4. Richard Sherman has a Players' Tribune essay explaining how he ended up on the 49ers. "I wanted to be represented by somebody who was going to look out for my best interest and nothing else," he says, "So I thought, Who better than me?"

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5. The Buccaneers sent a third-round pick to New York for Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Bob Glauber wrote that the move "makes complete sense" for New York.​

6. An interesting tidbit from 49ers GM John Lynch on his coach's demeanor after the team acquired Jimmy Garoppolo: "There were some days that Kyle Shanahan was like in mourning because I think everybody knows his master plan was to have Kirk Cousins come in, eventually."

7. Thirteen teams watched Johnny Manziel throw passes (38, reportedly), at the University of San Diego's pro day. The former Heisman Trophy winner is 25, but hasn't played in the NFL since 2015.

8. After all that, Ndamukong Suh did not end up meeting with the Raiders. The Rams and Titans are now considered front-runners for his services.

9. Luke Willson has finally convinced his brothers to root for the Lions—by signing with Detroit.

10. Bill Belichick's last two weeks have included stops in Alabama, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, California, Georgia, and Massachusetts. He's running!

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P.S.A.: Kevin Byard is an All-Pro safety for the Titans.

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