After seeing another veteran NFL quarterback fumble with his comments about national anthem protests, Aaron Rodgers took the opportunity to speak up and lend his support for those protesting police inequality and racism across the nation.
Rodgers shared an image to Instagram on Wednesday afternoon of him and his Green Bay Packers teammates locking arms during the national anthem before a game in 2017, including a strong message that asked people to “listen with an open heart.”
“A few years ago we were criticized for locking arms in solidarity before the game,” Rodgers said. “It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action.”
Rodgers’ post came shortly after the backlash began against New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who had made some controversial remarks during an interview with Yahoo Finance earlier Wednesday about the possibility of anthem protests resuming to start the 2020 season.
Specifically, Brees was asked what he thought the league’s response would and should be if players opted to take a knee during the anthem. He provided a lengthy answer, but one that missed the mark in terms of addressing the nationwide outrage:
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said. “Let me just tell what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War II, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps, both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So every time I stand with my hand over my heart looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about. And in many cases, that brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed.
“Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ‘60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point. And is everything right with our country right now? No, it is not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better and that we are all part of the solution.”
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Packers Teammates, Other NFL Stars Back Rodgers’ Message
Rodgers’ message of solidarity quickly garnered the support of his Packers teammates, such as All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari — who commented “#MyQB” — and new inside linebacker Christian Kirksey. Others around the NFL also latched onto the Packers quarterback’s words. For instance, Mark Ingram — who was Brees’ teammate from 2011-18 — thanked Rodgers for “understanding the WHY” behind the protests.
There were also those among the Packers’ ranks who decided to preach their own message. Cornerback Kevin King posted an Instagram video that was nearly seven minutes long describing his feelings on the matter, reflecting on how he is “proud” to have knelt with Colin Kaepernick during his rookie season in 2017.
“If I say black lives matter, I’m not saying that the rest of lives do not matter,” King said. “But until black lives matter the same as everything else, until all lives matter the same, then you can’t say that all lives matter.”