For Pete's Sake

Giants player on anthem protest: ‘If (fans) don’t like it, don’t come to the game’

New York Giants defensive lineman Olivier Vernon.
New York Giants defensive lineman Olivier Vernon. The Associated Press

The number of NFL players who have protested during the playing of the national anthem has declined dramatically since earlier in the season.

But a few players are still protesting about the injustices facing people of color in the United States, including New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The New York Post talked with Vernon, who now is the only Giants player to kneel during the playing of the national anthem. He said no matter where New York plays, he hears “plenty of verbal abuse from fans.”

“You hear ‘coward’ and ‘stand up’ and ‘disgrace,’ ” Vernon told the Post. “It’s fine. As long as nobody comes on the field and touches me. You stay where you at, you’re going to be all right. They have a right. Oh yeah, I hear it all the time. If they don’t like it, don’t come to the game.”

While a number of people have sworn off NFL games because of the protests, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told NBC News earlier this week that 98 percent of available tickets to all games have been sold.

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McCarthy said ticket sales are down 2 percent over last year, partly because of reduced seating capacity for the Los Angeles teams. Excluding the Rams and Chargers, ticket sales are down 1 percent, McCarthy told NBC.

On Wednesday night, the NFL agreed to contribute $89 million to address social justice issues considered important to African-American communities, ESPN reported. The move was aimed at ending the player protests.

Vernon, whose father recently retired from the Miami police department, told the Post that was “great movement to a good direction,” but that he intends to kneel for the rest of the season.

“At the end of the day, you want to fight for something that’s right,” Vernon said in the story. “At least some type change that can help elevate something, you just see something that’s being pushed. I feel like it’s a small step, but it is progress.

“I’m fine where I’m at right now. Ain’t nothing wrong with feeling bad for what you believe in. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. I stand behind my beliefs.”

In the Chiefs’ games in November, cornerback Marcus Peters stayed in the tunnel during the playing of the national anthem. Earlier this season, he sat on the bench.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff