Running back Rashad Jennings said Thursday he expects Giants players will stand for the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the Redskins. Several players had expressed an openness to making some sort of gesture, whether it be kneeling, sitting or putting a fist in the air, to express their concerns about racial oppression and injustice in the United States.
“If we decided to do something as a team, it’s one thing, but I honestly don’t think we’re going to do anything [during] the national anthem, because it’s just taking away,” Jennings said. “I believe right now, it would be undermining the whole reason for why people decided to take a knee, and that’s taking attention away from the oppressed and injustice. What I think we’re going to do is stand and play ball and find another way to attack the issue, outside of the national anthem.”
Jennings said he wants to “find a way [to raise awareness] outside of tapping into people’s emotions with the national anthem. Standing doesn’t mean I disagree with anybody else’s methods. We have to stand with our convictions. My personal conviction is to stand and find another way.”
Jennings commended first-year coach Ben McAdoo for understanding concerns that the players might have, especially after this week’s fatal police shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina. McAdoo indicated he’d prefer that all his players stand for the anthem as a show of respect for the military, but said he empathized with any players who were conflicted over the circumstances prompting others to protest.
“For him to have those open arms and have that much empathy for people that are going through hard times, lending his expertise and also his influence to be there for our community, that’s what it is,” Jennings said. “We play in New York, and it’s special to be in this position, so any time we can unmask ourselves and be a magnifying glass for a stance that’s important, we should do that. I think we’re going to find a way to do that, outside of tapping into people’s emotions with the national anthem.”
Several NFL players have protested during the national anthem, beginning with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who initially sat for the anthem but now takes a knee during the song. Jennings said he has spoken several times to Kaepernick, who appeared on the cover of this week’s Time magazine, and respects the quarterback’s protest.
“I’ve had that conversation with him on the phone several different times, and I told him I support him and what he’s doing,” Jennings said. “I also told him I’m going to continue to stand and told him why I stand, but I support what he’s doing, and that’s what the issue is. There are too many stories out there addressing the national anthem instead of the actual issue. Stick with the issue.”
Jennings said he will remain standing out of respect for the nation’s military. But he believes that Kaepernick’s gesture, as well as other players either taking a knee or raising a fist during the anthem, have “started a conversation. Any time you ruffle the feathers, you never know what you’re going to get. But I think the majority of people understand where Kaepernick was coming from. He’s already verbalized his respect for the military and specifically said it for the oppressed and injustice.”