Last year, Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon was one of the most visible and outspoken anthem kneelers in the league. This year, however, Vernon says that won’t be the case.
When asked if kneeling factored into his plans in 2018, Vernon replied, “I mean, I ain’t trying to get fined, so no.” However, Vernon also hasn’t committed to staying in the locker room.
According to the new league rule, only the team pays a mandatory fine if a player protests during the anthem. Though, the team could also fine the player at their discretion. If a player doesn’t want to stand for the anthem they have the option of remaining in the locker room.
Speaking of the rule, Vernon said, “I mean, you never want to be told what to do, really, especially when it comes to your freedom of speech. But it is what it is.” To be clear, the NFL’s policy in no way conflicts with Vernon’s freedom of speech. The First Amendment only addresses the government’s ability to restrict freedom of speech and religion. It does not tell a private employer, like the NFL, what they can and can’t do.
According to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano, “Vernon, the son of a retired police officer, joined the kneeling/protesting players last season in Week 3 after President Trump first railed against the kneeling NFL players. He was initially joined by teammates Landon Collins and Damon Harrison, but those two eventually stood and Vernon kneeled alone for most of the season.”
While Jets CEO and Co-owner Christopher Johnson has said that he will not fine players who protest the anthem. Giants Owner John Mara has not said whether he plans to fine any Giants players who protest.
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