Carter Coughlin thought he’d be spending this spring and summer preparing for his rookie season in the NFL. Instead, he wound up in the middle of a movement.
The seventh-round pick of the Giants was in Minneapolis when the murder of George Floyd sparked months of protest, activism and frustration. At the time he was living with three close friends, all of them Black, and Coughlin asked them one simple question:
“I just said, ‘Hey, how can I support you guys during this?’” he recalled on Sunday. “So we found out about a huge protest going on and I said ‘I would love to be a part of this with you guys.’”
Coughlin said it turned out to be one of the saddest but most inspiring things he has ever done in his short lifetime.
“It was really powerful to see the way people in Minnesota came together during that time,” he said. “I kind of think about a football locker room being one of the greatest displays of what society should look like. You go into a football locker room and politics don’t matter, race doesn’t matter, religion doesn’t matter. Nothing matters besides coming together as a team and fighting for a common goal. In that same way, when the protests were going on, you saw people from all around Minneapolis and people from around the country coming together and protesting. White, Black, whatever race, whatever religion, none of that mattered. That all got thrown out the window and everybody came together. For me that was beautiful, that was powerful, and it made me wish that the world looked like that all the time. I know that’s not the case and we have a long way to go, but I think the more opportunities for us to come together as a society the better.”
Sadly, there have been more opportunities. Coughlin was in contact with the Giants during the unrest over George Floyd via the virtual offseason program, but he was in training camp in New Jersey when Jacob Blake was shot earlier this month to spark a whole new series of protests. He couldn’t join those marches because of his football commitments, but the Giants have not shied away from voicing their emotions over it.
“When you see something so graphic and so horrific, it’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘Man, this can’t be what it’s really like,’” he said. “But you go through the line of guys on the team and everybody has stories about situations where they were treated unfairly. It really just reflects the state of where we are at as a country and it hurts. But at the same time, in that hurt, it’s not time to lay down and be devastated and not do anything about it. Instead for me it fuels me to want to make a change, to voice my opinion, to speak up when conversations are had to try to help educate people. As a White person, it’s our turn to understand what it’s like to go through America right now as a Black man, to sit and listen to stories that my teammates have that I’ve never experienced because of the color of my skin. To me, the change and the up and the down of the emotions, it really just fuels me to want to be a part of making change. So right now I just stand behind my teammates. I will do anything and everything to support whatever initiative they want to do. If I come up with anything I’ll be sure to bring it in front of the team. But I’m here for my brothers.”
Coughlin also heard teammate Lorenzo Carter’s impassioned speech after the scrimmage on Friday night.
“It’s been really really cool to be a part of the way the New York Giants program is handling all of this stuff,” he said. “The support has been pretty unbelievable. It’s been cool to see people like the Mara family and Coach Judge and really significant people in the New York Giants organization come out and voice their support and tell us as a team that whatever we want to do we’re backed by them. And it’s been really cool to see the way that leaders on the team, guys like Zo, have been stepping up and voicing their opinion, their hurt, their demand for social justice. It’s been really cool for me to observe it and be there and support it. I just feel blessed to be a part of this team.”
And part of the movement.
“Football has given me a platform to do a lot more than just tackle people,” he said. “The beautiful thing is we have a voice, so even though I know change seems slow sometimes, I know I’ve had more conversations about racial injustice this summer than I ever have in my lifetime. From that aspect, at least I can see there is a little bit of change going on. I pray and hope and continue to fight that it will turn into a big change as we progress.”