James White’s father is killed in car accident; NFL players offer support

The crash occurred at around 1 p.m. in Cooper City, a community between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said that one car had flipped and the other was on fire when officers arrived. Traffic homicide detectives are investigating the crash. James White, a star for his […]

The crash occurred at around 1 p.m. in Cooper City, a community between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said that one car had flipped and the other was on fire when officers arrived. Traffic homicide detectives are investigating the crash.

James White, a star for his performance in Super Bowl LI and a favorite of Coach Bill Belichick for his embrace of Belichick’s methods, was inactive for Sunday night’s game, a 35-30 loss for the Patriots, and was not at CenturyLink Field. Although he had been offered the plane of owner Robert Kraft, according to NBC, White chose to fly back to New England with the team.

White’s loss was on the mind of his teammates and other NFL players.

When Devin McCourty opened the scoring for the Patriots with an early pick-six on Russell Wilson, he ran to an end zone camera and, calling out White’s number, yelled, “2-8, we love you, bro!”

“Our hearts are heavy for James,” McCourty said after the game. “It’s just tough, man. There’s no words you can say. Just wanted to go out there and play our hearts out for him. It’s just devastating. I was heartbroken for him.”

Tom Brady, White’s former teammate, tweeted that he was “so heartbroken to hear the news of the tragedy of my great friend and forever teammate. … There are few people that come into your life that do EVERYTHING the right way. James is one of them. Kind, gentle, loving, fiercely competitive and hard-working. His parents raised an amazing son. And we are all grieving with James as he is going through this difficult time. Love you my friend.”

Wilson, who was White’s teammate in college at Wisconsin, tweeted “Praying for you bro” before the game and spoke of White in his postgame interview with NBC’s Michele Tafoya.

“My heart’s heavy, because one of my teammates, James White, from Wisconsin, one of the nicest guys, teammates, one of the hardest workers, one of the best people I know, had a tough one losing his dad,” Wilson said. “My heart’s been heavy all day thinking about him. … James, I’m praying for you, man, if you can hear me.”

Matthew Slater, White’s teammate since 2014, put the loss in perspective.

“There are things that are so much bigger than this game. And today was a reminder of that. Life is such a fragile thing,” Slater said (via the Boston Herald). “You just assume that you will wake up and go about your day and return safely, but life doesn’t happen like that. For our brother to lose his father and for his parents to be in that accident, it hit us all in the heart. We were struggling. We haven’t processed it yet. That takes time. I don’t have the words to describe how I feel.”

After the game, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman posted a picture of himself and White on Instagram with the caption, “Bigger than football.”

Brian Flores, the Miami Dolphins coach who formerly was with the Patriots, called Tyrone White “an incredible person who did a lot for a lot of young people in South Florida: James, Gio Bernard. It’s a big loss. … We’re a football family. We’re praying for his mom right now.”

Giovani Bernard, the Cincinnati Bengals running back, spent his final high school years with the White family after his mother died and his father suffered financial setbacks. “He was a father to me,” Bernard told ESPN in 2019. “It was awesome to have somebody there for me. He was a guy who taught you about discipline, about being on time for meetings, keeping your word, being a dependable person, doing the things that take you far in life. … If you think about a law enforcement father, that’s Mr. White. When I stayed there, I was petrified of making a mistake because I never wanted to disappoint him.”

James White, 28, who is in his seventh season with the Patriots, is in many ways the perfect player for Belichick, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2014. Although undersized at 5-foot-10, he was an ideal player for Belichick’s system because of his upbringing and days spent being coached in football by his father.

“He’s a great kid,” Belichick said in that 2019 ESPN story. “He’s smart, he works hard, very tough, dependable, his ball security, his decision-making, situational football — I mean, he is one of those guys that almost always does the right thing. Sometimes things come up that aren’t exactly the way they were practiced or doesn’t exactly follow the rule that you’ve outlined, but he has to make a decision quickly, whatever the circumstances or situation is, and he almost always makes the right one. Some of that’s just instinctive and good judgment on his part that’s, I’d say, beyond coaching.”

He learned a lesson in tenacity from his father, who was demoted and then fired in 2013 for, according to the Miami Herald, depositing nearly $23,000 in payments from what was then known as Sun Life Stadium into an account supporting his charity football team. The checks were made out to White, who said he had solicited a donation from the stadium; police officials said the checks were erroneously made out to White and should have been sent to the department for security provided at Dolphins games. White sued the county for wrongful termination and was reinstated in 2015.

“You have to stand up for what is right, for your principles,” he said at the time (via ESPN). “Sometimes people feel if you’re not as open or boisterous, they take that as a sign of weakness. … People sometimes take advantage of you, and you have to stand up for what you believe in.”

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