New York Giants Jay Bromley and Olivier Vernon (54) celebrate over Chicago Bears Jay Cutler who reacts after he is sacked in the second half in week 11 of the NFL at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on November 20, 2016. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In the wake of President Donald J. Trump's comments regarding NFL athletes who take a knee during the national anthem, three prominent New York Giants players -- defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and safety Landon Collins -- all took a knee during the playing of the anthem before their game Sunday against the Eagles while the rest of their teammates, coaches and staff locked arms in solidarity.
Trump, who kicked off the firestorm at a campaign rally Friday in Alabama for Luther Strange, called on NFL owners to rid themselves of any player who knelt during the playing of the anthem.
Trump's words seemed to particularly hit Vernon, whose father is a retired police officer that emigrated from Jamaica and whose mother emigrated from Switzerland, particularly hard.
"I had a lot of patience from last year with what was going on. I respect this nation, this country. I'm a first-generation American," Vernon said. "All these remarks just built up. (Saturday night), just hearing that just struck a chord."
Vernon didn't stop there.
"What does it say as far at the First Amendment when you can show you feel non-violently when you have a platform to do it? No matter how much money you make, why not do it? Why not stand down with your brothers and represent something that's bigger than the game of football?
"Something that we have in our nation that's been going on a long time and I just felt it was a necessary thing to do. What's fair is fair. If you can protest something that's non-violent and make a stand for something what's wrong with that?"
Vernon, who generally chooses his words carefully, continued. "I've been raised the right way. I know what's right and I know what's wrong. Ain't nobody ever going to scare me. I don't care if you the president or not -- you ain't my president."
Collins, who despite not being voted a team captain has morphed into a leader, said that his decision to kneel had nothing to do with disrespect of the country itself.
"We love our country to death. We'd die for it, too if we could," Collins said. "At the same time, we respect each other, we have a family over here and we're going to fight for each other."
After the game, the Giants' organization issued the following team statement: "We think the national anthem is an important way to honor this great country and the men and women who protect all of us. We are thankful and respect that we live in a country where an individual has the right to make the choice in how they recognize the anthem.
"Coach (Ben) McAdoo has been proactive in conveying to our players the significance of the national anthem. As an organization, we will continue to provide our players with opportunities to make a difference in our society and in our communities. Many of our players have accepted the responsibility to use their platform to make this country and our world a better place.
"There are many issues and problems that trouble all of us, and we know many of our players feel strongly about being on the forefront of positive change and progress and being a force for unity. As an organization and a team, we practice empathy and not judgement."