STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — There's a handful of places you can expect to see a New England Patriots player--at Gillette Stadium, say, or riding a celebratory duck boat through the streets of Boston.

It might be time to add Beacon Hill to that list, defensive captain Devin McCourty suggested Thursday on a lobbying visit to talk criminal justice reform and other issues with lawmakers.

"This is a pretty cool place, so hopefully this won't be the last time you'll see me here," McCourty said as he wrapped up a State House press conference discussing the effort.

Visiting legislative offices with representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, three-time Super Bowl champion Troy Brown and former Pittsburgh Steelers player Ulish Booker, McCourty said he heard "a little bit of everything" from lawmakers, including "some dancing and trying to avoid."

The three athletes are leaders in the Players Coalition, a nonprofit that aims to fight racial and social inequality.

Topics McCourty said he highlighted in the meetings include raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, mandatory minimum sentences, economic equity and school funding.

"We talked about wages and the economic advancement of black and brown people," he told reporters. "Hearing that African-American families have a net worth of $8, and you just think about, how can you have a fair education when you don't even have breakfast probably, you don't have something to eat? All of those different things, as we see, lead kids into a juvenile system, lead to the pipeline, school pipeline to prison, so I think for us as players, when we sat down and learned about these things, we were like, this is something we have to get behind."

McCourty's best-known relative is likely his twin brother Jason, who was recently traded to the Patriots. But he said it's other members of his family that make issues of equity and justice reform resonate for him.

"You have to realize this isn't far from me," he said. "I have a daughter that's one and a son on the way, so my kids will be running around, and hopefully they're great kids and they don't get into trouble, but the likelihood of a kid not getting in trouble at school or not doing something disruptive, it just doesn't happen. That happens, so to think my kids will be young, African-American kids, and if there's something I can do today that helps them when they're 10 or 11 years old, or helps a cousin or a kid I have never met, then I think it's our due diligence to come out here and try to make that difference."

McCourty said he hopes he can bring his brother with him on a similar trip in the future, and that he and other players plan to stay involved.

"We're here today, but we can easily be back here in May, we can be back here on a Tuesday randomly during the season, and I think that goes a long way, too, to know that the players are genuinely invested in this, not a photo op or anything like that," he said. "I think we're all here for the long run, and I think the encouraging thing is, because of schedules, not every player that wanted to be here could be here, but we get back here in April when we start off-season workouts, now we're talking about maybe 10 guys coming, 12 guys, so it's an exciting time. I think that as players we realize we can drive the force of change."

--Katie Lannan, State House News Service

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