The clean-up was important, and necessary.
But the conversations were essential.
Jack Adams, who hopes to resume his hockey career at Union College in the fall, has continued to work on his reconstructed knee and has had the opportunity to skate on a synthetic ice sheet in the greater Boston area lately.
He and his friend and personal trainer Marco Sanchez took time off from Adams’ ongoing recovery to help a recovery of a different sort on Monday, joining volunteers in sweeping through the damage to businesses in Back Bay and around Boston Common from the weekend’s rioting.
Adams and Sanchez spent four hours in gloves and masks helping business owners sweep up the mess, and during the course of their interaction, which included not only merchants but police officers, Adams said he was gratified to hear people concerned about the big picture in the U.S., and not just their personal loss.
“It was just unfortunate, but the biggest message I got from all the store owners was they were devastated by the physical condition of their store, but they were equally upset with what’s going on in this country with the police brutality issue and what happened with George Floyd,” Adams said by phone Monday evening.
“And it was actually pretty comforting talking to a bunch of police officers today [Monday] and getting their perspective, and they’re outraged, as well. They want to see justice in this case and are really upset by it.”
Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, and smartphone video of officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck became the touchstone of a massive protest movement against racism and police brutality throughout the country.
Adams, who lives in Boxford, Massachusetts, 25 miles north of Boston, said he and Sanchez talked Sunday night about the eruption of violence in the wake of police confronting the protesters, saw the damage to downtown Boston and decided to drive down on Monday morning to lend a hand in cleaning up.
“It was just a nice crowd, it was very diverse, a bunch of different races coming together as one family,” he said. “I was just always taught that you don’t combat violence with violence. I can’t speak for any African American, because I haven’t been through any racism or discrimination, but I’ve always been inspired by peace and love, and if we all do that, we’ll make the world a better place.
“We all just had trash bags and gloves and masks and kept our distance, but I think the more important thing was to hear people and how they were struggling and upset with their buildings, but also the outrage with the race issue in this country.”
Adams, a 6-foot-6 forward who was expected to be one of Union’s top scorers last season, missed his junior year after blowing out his right knee at the Detroit Red Wings’ NHL Prospects Development Camp last summer. He’s primed to return for his senior season, provided there is one, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sanchez has been instrumental in his comeback, and they even co-host a weekly podcast, Athletes Over Adversity.
“His father has been a cop for 30-plus years, and we both just kind of conversed and thought it would be a really good thing if we went down there in the morning and see people with different perspectives and see what they have to say about the whole thing,” Adams said.
“It shouldn’t even be a white or black issue. It should be a one humanity issue. If we keep just talking about it and not taking action, we’re going to keep going down this path.”
While Adams said he can’t possibly know what it’s like to experience racial discrimination, his family has hosted black athletes, like former Quinnipiac player Jordan Samuels-Thomas and former Boston College player Malcolm Lyles, and has seen some of what they’re up against, even in seemingly routine everyday life.
“We saw every single weekend in the summertime how those kids would get mistreated and racially profiled by other parents during hockey tournaments, and it was devastating,” Adams said.
“That’s one thing that is so good about Union College is how accepting it is with a diverse community. President [David] Harris, being an African American president and someone who’s so important in my life and a role model for me, that’s what’s so great about Union.
“When you look at the video in Minnesota, all you can think it, ‘What are you doing?’ I don’t ever have to face that fear of being pulled over, and it just sucks that some people do.”