A lot of people were wondering: Would the Green Bay Packers stand during the National Anthem or would some players “take a knee?” Would the team follow the lead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and not come out of the locker room at all? Would Aaron Rodgers take a knee after he posted a picture of players doing so before the game Sunday? Or would he stand?
In the end, Rodgers, and most of the other Packer players – but not all – linked arms for the National Anthem and remained standing. Three players for the Packers remained on the bench during the National Anthem, however. According to WTMJ-TV, “Tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks (a Milwaukee native) and defensive back Kevin King all chose to sit down during the anthem.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that it was the first time any Packers had not stood for the National Anthem in protest, noting that the only past protest came from “Bennett, who lifted his right fist during the first two regular-season games.”
Kendricks revealed that he sat in part because he wanted to raise attention about the Puerto Ricans who are suffering because of Hurricane Maria, according to reporter Tom Silverstein.
Rodgers and most of the Packers were standing as they linked arms.
All of the Packers weren’t arm-in-arm, though, and this old photo that Rodgers posted before the game caused a buzz.
Some fans were upset with those who didn’t stand.
Earlier in the day, Rodgers had people talking when he posted the photo on Instagram of players kneeling with the caption “#unity #brotherhood #family #dedication #love.” Some people were interpreting Rodgers’ Instagram comments as a hint that he might kneel during the anthem, although he could have just been offering support for other players, and the photo he posted did not show players kneeling during a protest but rather just during a break on the field. Still, the point he was making seemed pretty clear.
Furthermore, Packers CEO and President Mark Murphy did release a statement the day before that was sharply critical of the president.
Here’s another look at the Rodgers’ post getting the attention:
Rodgers also posted that he was giving away tickets at a location on a street named for the man who wrote the Bill of Rights.
He wrote, “Rodgerstickethunt In GB we have a street named after the man who wrote the Bill Of Rights. On that street you will find these tickets. Hint: if you’re near an organization that has two solid mandates, you are close. #gameday #packers #.”
Rodgers also shared that post on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the day before, Mark Murphy sharply criticized Donald Trump.
“It’s unfortunate that the President decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL,” Murphy’s statement read. “We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences. They have achieved their positions through tremendous work and dedication and should be celebrated for their success and positive impact. We believe it is important to support any of our players who choose to peacefully express themselves with the hope of change for good. As Americans, we are fortunate to be able to speak openly and freely.”
In August, though, USA Today reported that coach Mike McCarthy emphasized the importance of the National Anthem to players. For years, he has shown players a PowerPoint on why the National Anthem matters, the newspaper reported, adding, “They learn about its connection with sports, why it has been played before kickoffs and tip-offs and first pitches and puck drops since World War II.” Some Packers players said in that article that they would not sit for the anthem. For example, Martellus Bennett, whose brother Michael remained sitting during the National Anthem, said in August that he wouldn’t sit for it. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said at that time that it would be a waste of time to protest the National Anthem.
Fans were curious what would happen.
On Twitter, the Packers were receiving some pressure to stand for the National Anthem.
Owners have generally criticized the president’s comments. Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told CBS that the Steelers wouldn’t come out of the locker room for the National Anthem at all.
Trump ignited the war of words with the NFL on Friday, calling players who don’t stand for the National Anthem a “son of a b-tch.” He continued raising the issue on Twitter over the weekend. On Sunday, Trump again called for NFL owners to fire or suspend players who don’t stand for the Anthem. However, multiple owners have since defended their players’ right to protest, and the hashtag #takeaknee trended on Twitter.
Commissioner Roger Goodell had called Trump’s comments divisive, saying, “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
As for the Steelers, one player emerged from the locker room for the National Anthem:
Specifically, Trump said on Friday, according to New York Upstate, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s FIRED!’ You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag; he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
Read about other owners’ comments on the Trump controversy here: