The Mets introduced the thumbs-down to booing, and now the Giants have started shooing booing.
Leonard Williams — whose seven-year stint in New York between two teams is the longest among active NFL players — antagonized the MetLife Stadium crowd raining a steady stream of boos down Sunday onto the Giants during a 38-11 loss to the Rams.
“They do bother me, honestly,” Williams said. “We’re in our own home stadium. I don’t want to be hearing boos from our own fans. I understand they have a right to be upset, as well, because they are coming to see us put good football on the field and we haven’t been winning up to date, but at the same time I don’t like that.”
Williams put forth his best game since signing a three-year, $63 million contract in the offseason. He totaled seven tackles and 1.5 sacks, twice dragging down Matthew Stafford to knock the Rams out of field-goal range and force a punt.
But he shooed off the boos — waving his arms as if to imply go away — as fans became more and more frustrated with the Rams scoring 38 consecutive points, including 28 unanswered in the second quarter.
“I don’t think anyone deserves to be put down no matter who you are,” Williams said. “I’m not going to go to a salesman and tell him that he’s not a good person, or boo this person because he’s not doing a good job.”
Of course, fans are not attacking the individual character of the players. The reaction is based on the Giants having the worst record in the NFL (19-51) since the start of the 2017 season.
It was the second straight home game that booing has become a central storyline. Three weeks ago, Giants co-owner John Mara was the target of loud boos during Eli Manning’s number retirement ceremony.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Williams said. “I play football. I don’t sit in the stands. So, I can’t see it from their perspective.”
Mets stars Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez started a thumbs-down gesture in response to booing when their season fell apart in August. Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams responded to booing last month by saying “I don’t want to hear that [expletive].”
But Leonard Williams has had longer to adjust to the demands of New York sports fans than any of those other athletes. He just hasn’t experienced any of the thrills that come with winning in the city. He is 34-67 in 101 career games with the Jets and Giants, but has earned $75 million for one Pro Bowl selection and 32 career sacks.
“As a competitor, it’s really upsetting that I’m in Year 7 and I’ve been having a lot of losing seasons,” he said. “I haven’t been to the playoffs yet in my career, and that’s pretty tough. A long career in this league is 10-12, 13 years. I’m already close to half of that.”