The Patriots’ new coach is doing something not many do in the draft press
New England coach Jerrod Mayo did something brave during his first news conference as head coach of the Patriots. He talked about race.
The most interesting part of his meeting with the media on Wednesday was when the conversation turned to race, specifically, when Mayo was asked about becoming the first Black coach in Patriots history. Owner Robert Kraft was asked about it.
“I’m really color-blind, in that I know how I feel on Sunday when we lose,” Kraft said. He added that he hired Mayo because the coach was the best person for the job and coincidentally Mayo is black. “He was a man of color, but I chose him because I thought he was best suited to do the job,” Kraft said.
This is the typical answer good people give to the complex issue of race. I don’t see color. I see the performance. This is a very naive view, but it is a view that many people have.
Mayo was having none of it. Here comes the brave part. Mayo politely, but firmly, contradicted the man he had just hired, and someone who is one of the most powerful people in all of sports. It was a wonderful moment.
“I see color,” Mayo said. “Because I think if you don’t see color, you can’t see racism.”
And he didn’t stop there. Mayo was asked about the historical significance of his appointment.
“You better believe it,” he said. “Being the first black coach here in New England means a lot to me.” He added: “…You have to take ideas from other people: black, white, green, yellow… it doesn’t really matter. Old and young. One thing you will notice about me, in our interaction as a person.” “We keep at it, I don’t like echo chambers. I want people around me to question my ideas, or question the way we did things in the past…”
It’s hard to put into words how big of a deal Mayo is. No one knows how good a coach he will be, but for Mayo to speak frankly about race, during his introductory press conference, in New England of all places, is a great moment.
To understand why this is so important, look no further than some of the comments under the Patriots’ social media account on X, formerly Twitter. Sure, there are lots and lots of racist responses, but also people saying Mayo shouldn’t be talking about race.
That’s why what Mayo did is so important and, yes, brave. It may seem easy to say that seeing race is important, because in order to solve this country’s dire racial issues, you first have to define them. Duh.
But one of the great ironies of race in America is how it is ignored by tens of millions of people. They think that by not talking about it, or criticizing people who do, somehow it will go away. no. Racism is poison and the only way to combat it is to fight it head-on. Discuss it. Acknowledge it.
Just like May did.
Obviously, it’s too early to know what kind of coach Mayo will be. In the end, what matters most is how much he wins. Winning Super Bowls was the norm in New England with Bill Belichick. If May wins, he will be remembered for that. If he loses, he will be remembered for it.
It’s also true that the downfall in the NFL is steeper for black coaches. The criticism is more harsh. The standards are different. This is the case for many black Americans in many professions. It could be for Mayo as well.
But for now, for now, Mayo isn’t putting his views on race, or, in essence, his blackness, aside for the sake of the job. He tells the truth about race and shows courage that many people don’t have.
This way, he actually wins.