Once the national anthems were over, it was just football for fans of the Jets and Giants on Sunday. But before that, political football was in the air.
The issue of some NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem and President Trump’s statement that players doing so should be “fired” were a hot topic on a hot day before the Jets hosted the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium and the Giants visited the Eagles in Philadelphia.
Opinions varied about the two issues. First, should players kneel during the anthem? And was the President right or wrong in admonishing those who choose to?
“I think not standing … is very disrespectful,” said Howard Rosenblum of Williston Park at MetLife Stadium. “The owners are paying the players millions and millions of dollars. The owners should request them to stand. If they don’t want to stand, it would be up to the owners to penalize them or get rid of them. This is respect for the country. If it wasn’t for our military, they might not even have jobs. I’m not sure about how the president said it, but I (think) the NFL players should stand out of respect.”
Inside Lincoln Financial Field, Giants fan Shawn Espinosa was wearing a Landon Collins jersey. Collins was one of three Giants who knelt for the anthem on Sunday along with Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon. The other players and coaches linked arms on the sideline.
“I think what the players are doing, they are showing how they feel for the injustice that people are going through,” said Espinosa, 35, of Atco, N.J. “A lot of times we skip and we forget what’s happening and they’re the ones that are in the spotlight, so with them kneeling it doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t disrespect the flag. It actually promotes more of the freedoms that we have as Americans.”
One theme most fans seemed to agree on is that Trump may have more important things to worry about.
“I think the president should focus on the big issues we’re worried about instead of focusing on the NFL players,” said Kevin Robert Goebert from Garden City. “The president should . . . focus on the real problems that face people: hurricanes, people who lost their houses and people who are living in shelters. With all that going on, we need to worry about who is kneeling?”
Said Jeffrey Tunkel of Oceanside: ”There are much bigger issues than people using their freedom of speech to non-violently protest.”
Clinton Harriott, a former New Yorker now living in New Jersey who said he loves the Eagles and Giants, laughed when asked what he thought of what Trump said.
“What Trump said? Oh, boy,” said Harriott, 54. “I don’t think nobody should be fired. Nobody. Those guys work and they do everything they’re supposed to do, right? So I don’t see why you should just pick up somebody and throw them out like that.”
Still, Harriott said: “I think they should stand up for (the anthem). I think they should do what they’re supposed to do.”