National Football League fans are fleeing for the exits as player protests and kneeling during the national anthem continues. The latest outrage toward fans comes from New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon. He openly told his last place Giant faithful outright, “Don’t come to the game.”
Vernon, the only member of the Giants still regularly taking a knee, told reporters that he had been heckled by fans in response to his season-long protest. Apparently it has bothered the sensitive defensive end.
A shaken Vernon poured out his feelings telling stunned reporters that, “You hear ‘coward’ and ‘stand up’ and ‘disgrace. 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.”
It was not known what Giants management might do to soothe Vernon’s nerves. Nevertheless, his comments ran Thursday in the New York Post. Former NFL quarterback and CBS Sports commentator Boomer Esiason was quick to call the comments an “out-and-out disgrace.”
Vernon signed an $85 million, five-year contract last year with Giants owner John Mara. That makes him the richest for a defensive end in NFL history.
The latest story of anger and defiance by some of the NFL players is creating a public relations nightmare for the league. Fan outrage has caused declining ratings and raised the ire of President Trump.
Over the past few months, the number of players participating has dwindled, with about 20 refusing to stand for the anthem in Week 12. It isn’t known whether they decided themselves it was counter-productive or outside forces intervened.
Whatever the reason, these NFL players have been clearly biting the hand that feeds them. Professional sports depend on the loyalty of their fans. Without them, there is dwindling advertising revenue and a host of other money-making commercial ventures.
An illuminated Esiason added, “Do you realize, Olivier Vernon, that you do not make the money unless the fans do come and buy the tickets and buy your jersey? Do you not realize that when the TV turns on, there is a large swath of advertisers that buy around the league so that you can make the freaking money that you make?”
Vernon is the son of a Miami police officer. He says his refusal to stand is about “highlighting racial injustice and not about disrespect for the flag or the country,” the Post reported.
One thing is certain, TV ratings are way down, advertisers are nervous and many former fans have found other activities including college football. The NCAA is enjoying some of its highest viewership numbers in decades.