More than 15 Giants kneeled while the Steelers stood in unison and held an anti-racism banner during the playing of the national anthem before their “Monday Night Football” matchup.
Giants coach Joe Judge stood between co-captains Jabrill Peppers and Dalvin Tomlinson and put one hand on the shoulder of both kneeling players. The banner read “Steelers Against Racism” and was long enough for about 25 players to hold with some fists raised.
“Nothing was scripted in terms of who stood next to me or who I was touching,” Judge said. “As a team, the thing that makes you special is you respect everybody’s unique background. We respected our players’ rights and choices. I’m proud of the way our team handled it in terms of sticking together and not letting anything externally divide us.”
Under New Jersey’s COVID-19 restrictions, there were no fans in MetLife Stadium to react, but Giants co-owner John Mara admitted earlier this summer he knows a segment of the fan base will be outraged. Mara’s preference is for players to stand but vowed to support those who feel kneeling in protest of social injustice and racism is the way to be heard.
In 2017, only three Giants — the since-departed Damon Harrison, Landon Collins and Olivier Vernon — kneeled during the anthem. Three years later, the Giants’ biggest star, Saquon Barkley, stood.
“We came to an agreement as a team that it’s your right to make your own decision,” Barkley said. “For me, I respect everyone that kneeled and I respect everything that is going on, but I wanted to continue to fall back on what I’m able to do in my community and try to be a leader in that aspect and try to make change that way.”
The Giants stood spread across the goal line during the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” about 25 minutes before kickoff. Lorenzo Carter, one of the most outspoken Giants on racism, was in tears as the team returned to the locker room.
A video simultaneously played on the stadium big screens showing highlights of players’ community service work involved in the #TogetherBlue campaign to address areas such as poverty, homelessness, education, substance abuse, criminal justice and police-community relations. The Steelers remained in the locker room during that moment.
“We’ve had a number of discussions as a team leading up to this week and dating back to the spring,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. “That was the way we felt the most appropriate to go about it.”
Hours before kickoff, several Giants, including quarterback Daniel Jones, warmed up in black T-shirts that read “Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us” on the front and “End Racism” on the back. They were designed by former Giants captain Michael Thomas, now a safety for the Houston Texans.