Giants, Steelers make social justice statements

The New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers each made anti-racism statements before their Monday night matchup at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

In a continuation from their posts Monday morning, the Steelers held a long white banner that read “Steelers Against Racism” during the national anthem. Tight end Eric Ebron was among the players who held their fist in the air.

During pregame warm-ups, a handful of Steelers players along with coach Mike Tomlin wore T-shirts with social justice messages such as “Black Lives Matter” and “End Racism.”

The Giants had approximately 20 players kneel during the national anthem. Coach Joe Judge stood with his arms on the shoulders of safety Jabrill Peppers and defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson.

“Nothing was scripted in terms of who stood next to me or who I was touching. But we made a decision as a team we are going to respect everybody and the thing that makes it special is you respect everyone’s unique background and you can move on,” Judge said. “So, we went out there, respected our players’ right and choice to handle it how they wanted to handle it. I respect how our players handled it in terms of not letting anything external divide us and we went out there and played football.”

Earlier this month, when the anthem topic was brought up, Giants co-owner John Mara had said that his “preference is that everybody stand. But if you decide that in your conscience taking a knee is the right thing to do, I’m going to support your right to do that because I believe in the First Amendment and I believe in the right of people, especially players, to take a knee in silent protest if that is what they want to do.”

The Giants stayed on the field after pregame warm-ups and lined up on the goal line for “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing,” known as the Black national anthem. Nobody kneeled. The Steelers remained in the locker room. Giants outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who has been outspoken about racial injustice, was clearly emotional and in tears.

For Week 1, the league directed every home game to play two songs during the pregame: “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” The league does not require teams to be on the field during the anthem presentation, nor does it prohibit kneeling.

In the second game of the Monday Night Football doubleheader, 20 players from the host Denver Broncos took a knee during the anthem, along with 12 Tennessee Titans players.

On the Denver side, Jurrell Casey and DeMarcus Walker were among a handful of players who stood, but with a raised fist. Other players who stood next to teammates who took a knee put their hands on the kneeling players’ shoulders. Both teams were on the field as the national anthem played.

In the opener, MetLife Stadium had “It Takes All of Us” and “End Racism” written in the back of the end zones. The Steelers wore “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts during early warm-ups while the Giants had “End Racism.”

The Steelers announced earlier Monday that all players would have the name Antwon Rose Jr. on the back of their helmets to honor and remember the Black teenager from Pittsburgh who was fatally shot in the back by a white Pittsburgh police officer in 2018. But left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former U.S. Army Ranger, had the name of Alwyn Cashe written on the back of his helmet. Cashe, a Black Army veteran, was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for heroism in Iraq.

ESPN Staff Writer Brooke Pryor and ESPN Senior Writer Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.