Joe Judge on Giants players taking the lead in potential protests: 'We'll support our players'

Ralph Vacchiano
SNY

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Joe Judge isn't ready to say yet if he expects any of his Giants players to kneel in protest during the national anthem this season, or if he'd be willing to join them.

But whatever the players decide to do, they will have the support of their head coach.

"We're going to support our players. Absolutely," the rookie head coach said in an interview with SNY earlier this week. "We have not discussed anything game-day related. We will have those conversations. We will talk with the players, as coaches and with ownership. We will have those discussions leading into those times and we'll see what the players have in mind, what they're looking to do. 

"But we're going to support our players."

That's an important show of support from the 38-year-old Judge, given the huge protests for social justice and against police brutality taking place all across the country. Many NFL players seem to be gearing up again to kneel in protest during the national anthem, as some did -- to follow Colin Kaepernick's lead -- three years ago.

Two Giants -- Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard -- have already taken a very public stance, participating in a powerful video from some of the league's star players in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. That video got NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to admit "we were wrong" in how the league did not previously support kneeling players and he vowed to "encourage" any peaceful protests from now on.

The Giants, back in 2017, did have several players who chose to take a knee -- Landon Collins, Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison. They were allowed to do it, though at the time, co-owner John Mara and head coach Ben McAdoo made it clear they preferred players to stand.

Judge's preference is to let the players take the lead, and he will gladly follow.

"I want to make sure we're on the same page as a team," Judge said. "We're going to support our players, but we have to talk with the players and see what they're thinking. There's a lot that's going to be discussed and going to be decided between now and then."

Judge said the Giants have had "a lot of long, important conversations" since the protests began in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police back on May 25 -- discussions that have included Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch. He said his players "have really been focused on action" and Judge has tried to channel that toward the New York-New Jersey area since "this is where we all live now."

Video: Joe Judge: We'll punch you in the nose for 60 minutes

But Judge said he's also discussed the players' "voice" and how they can effectively use it to speak out -- like the way Barkley and Shepard did in that powerful players video. He said there are no restrictions on any of his players, and they're free to speak out about anything on any forum they wish to use. He even praised them for the "responsible" way they've done it so far.

His only advice to them was that if they're going to speak out, they should make it count. 

"We discussed with our players early on about social media that, listen, this is a platform that wasn't available to our players during the civil rights movement," Judge said. "It wasn't available 40-50 years ago. Our players have a platform. What we stressed to them is just make sure you use it for what your intent to use it is. 

"The message we gave our guys on any social media they intend to use is: Take your time, really think out what you want your message to be and who you're trying to reach. And then articulate your thoughts, and when you put it out there, never feel the need to defend it or clarify it at a later date. So make sure when you put it out there that it's exactly how you want it."

As for the actions they can all take, Judge said that's still to be determined, but the plan is "We're going to listen to them and what they want to do and that's the direction we'll take." He said the Giants have already begun reaching out to community organizations to see how they can help and the best way to accomplish their goals.

"We feel we can make a difference and we're going to put in the work to do that," Judge said. "Really that's what a lot of our conversations have been about. We want our team to be a team that can be a positive example of how we can work together, how guys from all different backgrounds can work together and make a change."

Video: FNNY continues to discuss social justice and the NFL

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