Three Green Bay Packers stayed seated during the National Anthem on Sunday, September 24 after a war of words ignited between President Donald Trump and the NFL. However, things changed on Thursday, September 28.
The Packers all stood, linking arms, in unity for the National Anthem on Thursday, and some fans followed suit. (You can watch a live stream of the Packers-Bears game here.)
QB Aaron Rodgers had called on fans to join the Packers in locking arms, a move that caused some fan anger on social media. Fans also chanted “USA! USA!”
The Bears also stood and linked arms:
Not everyone was a fan of the locking arm approach.
However, a lot of people liked how it turned out.
The scene extended outside the stadium.
A large American flag was on the field.
Earlier in the week, Rodgers asked fans to stand and link arms, saying, “This is about equality. This is about unity and love and growing together as a society and starting a conversation around something that may be a little bit uncomfortable for people. But we’ve got to come together and talk about these things and grow as a community, as a connected group of individuals in our society, and we’re going to continue to show love and unity, and this week we’re going to ask the fans to join in as well and come together and show people that we can be connected and we can grow together.”
The Packers organization also called on fans to lock arms during the National Anthem. “Those of us joining arms on Thursday will be different in so many ways, but one thing that binds us together is that we are all individuals who want to help make our society, our country and our world a better place. We believe that in diversity there can be UNI-versity. Intertwined, we represent the many people who helped build this country, and we are joining together to show that we are ready to continue to build,” the team said in a statement. You can read it in full here.
Who were the Packers who didn’t stand during the earlier game?
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 this marked the first time any Packers had not stood for the National Anthem in protest, reporting that the only past protest came from “Bennett, who lifted his right fist during the first two regular-season games.”
Most of the Packers, including QB Aaron Rodgers, stood and linked arms together during the National Anthem.
Here’s a photo of Bennett raising his fist in protest in the past.
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.
According to defensive lineman Dean Lowry, speaking to Greg Matzek of WTMJ, “Coach McCarthy told the team that ‘Whatever you do, be behind us.'”
Aaron Rodgers hinted that he supported the protests before the game, posting a photo on Instagram that showed players kneeling, although the photo was not taken during a protest. However, Rodgers was not one of the Packers who sat down during the National Anthem. He remained standing, but linked arms with other players in a demonstration of unity. Most of the Bengals also stood and linked arms.
Some fans were unhappy with the three Green Bay Packers who didn’t stand.
Earlier in the day, Rodgers 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 did not do so.
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 #.”
Some fans were unhappy.
Meanwhile, the day before, Packers CEO 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.
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.” 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.”
Read about other owners’ comments on the Trump controversy here: