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Giants address Anthem protests and respond to violence in society

Posted Sep 21, 2016

Giants head coach and players discussed violence in society and National Anthem protests around the NFL: 


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The denizens of the small, insular community in the Giants’ locker room are no different than citizens across the country: they are searching for an appropriate response to the violence and unrest that are ingrained in everyday American life.

Some NFL players have reacted by standing, kneeling or raising their fists during the playing of the national anthem prior to kickoff at their games.

Today, the players and their head coach talked about doing something to make an impact beyond the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

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“There are a lot of things going on in society,” coach Ben McAdoo said today. “As a coach, we have a bunker mentality. A lot of times we don’t know or see what’s happening. The players, they’re out there a little bit more than we are. There are a lot of serious and heavy issues. They’re at conflict, a lot of them. I had a conversation with a few guys I’m not going to name. They’re conflicted and they want to make a difference.

“The league is a platform to make a difference. I encourage them to. I would like to be involved in that. Anything I can do to help. Still, I feel that you can make a difference outside of the anthem. We can do something together to make a difference. It doesn’t have to involve the national anthem. I still believe that you pay tribute to the people that sacrifice their lives so that we can coach and play in this great game. That’s what I believe.”

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Societal ills were pushed to the forefront nationally and into NFL locker rooms again this week with the killing of African-American men by police officers in Tulsa and Charlotte. Similar tragedies have been in the news all year.

Today, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman refused to answer questions at his weekly media availability in response to the shootings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. He instead made a statement, which said, in part, “…something needs to be done. And so when a guy takes a knee, you can ignore it. You can say he’s not being patriotic, he’s not honoring the flag. I’m doing none of those things. I’m saying, straight up, this is wrong and we need to do something.”

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“I think everybody should share some type of sympathy which leads to empathy over time for the same reoccurrences,” running back Rashad Jennings said. “Every individual incident is different. There is not one in a lump sum, same, boxed up situation and obviously, there are probably facts about this one that are going to come out that we all don’t know yet. But there is enough that has happened to where you can’t have a blind eye. And it takes people in privileged positions - people in privileged positions - for people unprivileged or oppressed to even be heard, no matter what the situation is; color, race, ethnicity, religion, whatever it is. So that is what you are seeing. People are doing it in their way.”

Jennings agreed with McAdoo that he would prefer to do much more than make a gesture during the anthem. His reasoning is that such protests are often construed as being disrespectful to the military, which is not what he or anyone wants to convey.

“What I really feel is important is that people don’t get so focused and fixated on making gestures during the national anthem to a point to where you men and women are writing these stories and missing the whole reason behind it,” Jennings said. “It is becoming more of thinking it is a lack of respect for the military, which everybody has the utmost respect for, and quite frankly, that is why I stand. But the reason that people are making the gestures is because Kaep (San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the first player to protest when he sat down during the playing of the anthem prior to a preseason game) was the first to sit down and take a knee for oppression and injustice and that is it. So people need to stop making stories that are not quoting people taking a knee for oppression and injustice.”

As McAdoo indicated, he and the players have had discussions on these vital issues, which is a good start.

“That is a conversation that you want to have,” Jennings said. “It is good to have a head coach who is willing and understands and sees a bigger picture. We are all privileged to do what we do and coach said before, at the beginning of the year, that -- I don’t want to misquote him, but he said he doesn’t know what it is like to be a woman, he doesn’t know what it is like to be a black man, but he cares about every single one of his players and people he works with.”

“I think we have a great locker room, a healthy locker room,” McAdoo said. “I support our players 100 percent. I trust in them.”

McAdoo has instituted a new protocol this season for the national anthem. The players stand in a straight line on the edge of the sideline. Coaches and other staffers stand behind them. When asked after Kaepernick’s first protest what he would do if one of his players made a similar gesture, McAdoo said he would prefer that all of them stand. But would he allow anyone who wanted to not to stand?

“It doesn’t have to do with me allowing anything,” McAdoo said. “It’s their freedom, their choice. That’s part of the reason why I choose to stand.

“I’m not trying to change anyone else’s opinion or decision. That’s their freedom. I just want an open dialogue. Something that we can do together as a team to make a difference.”