At least 15 New York Giants players kneeled during the national anthem before their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. Co-captains Jabrill Peppers and Dalvin Tomlinson were two of the Giants who kneeled, and head coach Joe Judge stood between them and put one hand on the shoulder of each player, according to the New York Post. After the game, Judge said he was happy how his team approached the anthem.
"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." Giants running back Saquon Barkley, NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, didn't kneel during the anthem and explained to reporters why he made the decision.
Steelers choose to stand as a team for the national anthem and the Giants allowed players to chose whether to stand or kneel—about a third of the Giants chose to kneel... #PITvsNYG pic.twitter.com/S1hVR3IKuL— Jennifer X. Williams (@JenXperience) September 14, 2020
"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." Back in June, Judge spoke to reporters on the team's view on kneeling during the national anthem, which began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
"We're going to be very receptive of our team, and we’re going to support our players," Judge told NJ Advance Media in a phone interview, as reported by Fansided. "We'll involve the players, be in there as coaches. The owners have been involved and have been phenomenal in listening." Currently, no fans are allowed to attend games at the home of the Giants, MetLife Stadium, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Giants co-owner John Mara knows a small number of fans would be angry for players kneeling, but he's supporting players who are protesting social injustice and racism.