Former Patriots Players Speaking at Risk Conference Air Opinions on Kneeling

By  | October 18, 2017

Watching NFL players kneel during the National Anthem didn’t sit well with a pair of former New England Patriots players, who aired their feelings about players protesting during the opening of football games during a risk management conference on Wednesday.

“When I was at Gillette Stadium and saw these guys take a knee, I really felt ashamed for the first time,” Matt Light, a former offensive lineman for the team, said. “It was very difficult for me to witness what took place.”

He was speaking with teammate and former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich. The pair of retired players were guest speakers at the 2017 Risk Management Summit: Unlocking Possibility. The summit is being held at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas from Sunday through Thursday. The conference is hosted by Energi, a provider of risk management and insurance offerings to the energy industry.

Following suit of many teams in the days after President Trump last month called for NFL players who did not stand for the anthem to be fired and fined, more than a dozen Patriots players kneeled and locked arms before their game with the Houston Texans, as fans began to boo the players.

Both Light and Ninkovich said they understood that the players were trying to show unity, however Light said that while players may have felt they were acting out of unity, that’s not what those watching on national television saw.

“What the country saw was guys who used their platform to disrespect the flag,” Light said.

Ninkovich said he always respects the flag, and he was taught to do so by a “family of hardworking Ironworkers.”

“I’m standing for every National Anthem,” Ninkovich said, drawing a loud applause from the audience. He later remarked that he “was surprised, very shocked, that there was anybody on a knee.”

Both said that when they played for the Patriots, coach Bill Belichick and team owners didn’t allow such outside distractions.

The two were posed the a question on the hot-topic Anthem debate during an hour-long talk moderated by Brian K. McCarthy, president and CEO of Energi, who put no shortage of tough questions in front of them.

They talked about playing for Belichick, playing with quarterback Tom Brady, playing pranks during team practices, winning Super Bowls, concussions, retiring, and the lessons they took from football into their lives and endeavors now.

Light retired in 2012 and has been putting a lot of his time into the his Light Foundation, a youth-oriented charity. Ninkovich just retired last season.

During his 11-year playing career, Ninkovich was part of two Patriots Super Bowl championship teams. He also played for the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins. Light also played for 11 seasons and was a member of three Patriots Super Bowl championship teams.

McCarthy asked teammates about playing for Belichick.

“No. 1, he’s the best coach in the history of the game,” Light said.

He said Belichick, who has coached the Patriots since 2000 and has led the team to five Super Bowls, was great teacher, but he wasn’t so keen on practical jokes.

In one instance, Light hired a man to dress in a bikini and hold up suggestive signs near the play clock on the practice field, knowing he would show up on videos that coaches review after practice. According to Light, when coaches reviewed film, they noted zero reaction from the stoic Belichick.

Light and Ninkovich also talked about Belichick’s philosophy of treating all players the same, including Brady, who many refer to as the game’s “greatest of all time.”

Light said when players screwed up in practice or in a game, they got called out no matter who they were.

Ninkovich put in an example of what Belichick would say when reviewing film of a bad play with a room full of players: “Our so-called star player can’t take a snap.”

“He held everybody accountable in the same way,” Light added.

Both men also talked about winning Super Bowls, including last season’s spectacular 34-28 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons, who shut down the Patriots through the first two quarters and dominated on offense.

“It was an emotional roller coaster in that game last year,” Ninkovich said.

He said the Falcons came out “fast and efficient” and had the Patriots down in the first half.

“Then when we went into the locker room, everyone was calm,” he said, adding that is because the players knew the second half was another game.

“And then there was like a tidal wave,” he said as the team began clicking and the Falcons faltered. “We were rolling.”

Vehicle Technology

Vehicle technology should be viewed as not just a safer way, but a more efficient way, to help a company, according to Sean Tindall, an inside sales team lead for Fleetmatics, a Verizon company that provides software to assist fleet management.

“As a business owner your most valuable assets are your employees and your vehicles and your equipment,” Tindall said.

He was speaking on a panel titled Vehicle Technology Solutions. Other panelists were Robert Martineau, CEO of AirFlow Deflector, which makes sideguards for big rigs; Charles Farmer, vice president of research and statistical services for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; and John Fontana, program manager for Rosco Vision Systems, which manufacturers cameras.

Farmer, of course, stressed the safety side of emerging vehicle technologies.

“More than 90 percent of crashes are caused by something a driver did,” Farmer said. “We can make a big dent in crashes just through technology.”

Disconcertingly, Farmer said crashes are going up. In 2013 there were 5.7 million reported crashes. “This year we’re expecting around 6.6 million,” he said. “It’s worrisome for the insurers.”

He believes technology may be the answer to reducing some of those crashes, including one new development.

“Best thing is crash avoidance systems that are coming out now,” he said.

Farmer is a big believer in automatic emergency breaking systems, which detect a possible forward crash with another vehicle. The systems alert the driver to take corrective action to avoid the crash, and may automatically brake to assist in slowing the vehicle.

“We see around a 50 percent decline in rear-end crashes if you’ve got that system on your vehicle,” Farmer said.

He said to expect these systems to become more commonplace soon.

“The auto companies pretty much all agreed to make it standard on their vehicles by 2022,” Farmer said.

Farmer and his fellow panelists also discussed truck vs. car crashes.

According to Farmer, there are 1,500 deaths per year involving truck vs. car incidents. He said half of those are dangerous crashes that involve cars that end up going underneath the trucks.

He said there’s a need for stronger standards for rear under-guards for trucks, and that there’s a need to create standard requirements for side under-guards. He said tests conducted by the institute have show these side under-guards can reduce injuries.

Martineau, whose company makes such devices, said more people are expressing interest in them.

“We’re seeing a significant increase in interest over the past year in side-guards,” he said, adding that they’ve been shown to not only help reduce injury and deaths in truck vs. car crashes, but that having them installed helps reduce lawsuits in the instance of such crashes and the size of the lawsuits.

The panelists also discussed adopting technology, and how some people immediately embrace it while others stay on the fence.

Tindall said that being in an industry that uses GPS to track drivers, one of the things he hears most often from customers is: “I trust my guys.”

“It’s not about being big brother,” he said, adding that the data they gather from telematics help make operations safer and more efficient.

Farmer said new vehicle technology often takes time to be accepted by the general population.

“Drivers will be resistant to new technology,” Farmer said.

He used seat belts as an example, saying they were unpopular when introduced, and it took mandating the wearing of seatbelts to get people to start using them.

“Now, 90 percent of people are using seat belts,” he said. “They got used to them.”

Fontana agreed that getting customers to adapt to new technology is often the biggest step. And then it’s much a much easier transition after they understand its value, he said.

“Once they adopt it, it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever done,” Fontana said.

Tindall said it’s hard to convince some people that telematics are not just a safety product, but they can improve a company’s bottom line.

“The return on the investment is really hard to convey,” he said.

He said that even with a fleet as small as five, they can show there are ways to save money with telematics.

“We have story after story that rates are getting reduced because everybody’s liability is coming down,” Tindall said.

Change for Tomorrow

How to Change for Tomorrow was the title of a panel with John Wicks, senior vice president of operations for FIRST Insurance Funding Corp., and Justin Berry, the company’s regional president.

Wicks has amassed more than 15 years of premium finance experience, and has been with FIRST Insurance since 2002.

Most of Berry’s career was with regional and national brokerages building best practices. He was previously a vice president with industry consultant MarshBerry.

They tackled subjects including technology, motivation, mentoring and office culture.

Berry offered some advice for those who are working to build efficiency every day in their firms.

“Know what others have done and how they’ve been successful to help make yourself successful faster,” Berry said.

He emphasized for those seeking to improve their organization they should consider learning from other companies, learning from peers, and to find out what their organization is already doing well.

“Take a day to find out what’s great about your firm,” he said.

The speakers also touched on the topic of motivating employees.

One way to do that is to find employees who can be motivated, and then set expectations, according to Berry.

“Letting people know what they should be doing is a way to drive motivation,” he said.

He advised picking several mentors from around the office for younger employees, finding mentors that may be good at particular disciplines.

“Just make sure their personalities match,” he said. “No one listens to someone they don’t like.”

Building a good mentorship program, being a good motivator and setting expectations will build a strong company culture, and that will boost employee retention, he said.

“I think culture does retain and maintain good employees,” he said.

He added: “You want people excited to come into the office. You don’t want them thinking 9-to-5.”