GREEN BAY – To demonstrate unity, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wants fans to join players Thursday night, locking arms in the stands during the national anthem at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers asked fans to lock arms as a show of togetherness instead of division. The request stemmed from what Rodgers called “a fantastic meeting” among players, discussing a wide range of topics he chose to keep private.
“I think there’s been a great sense of unity and love and support in this locker room,” Rodgers said, “guys coming together. Outside the building, I think the message has been diluted a little bit, and it’s been kind of taken away from what we were trying to do: show a united front, guys linking up together.”
The Packers host the Chicago Bears on Thursday night. Opening Week 4 of the NFL season, theirs will be the first game since last weekend’s mass protests during the national anthem.
Later Tuesday evening, the Packers released a statement signed by "The Packers Players" asking fans to join them in locking arms during the national anthem.
In a polarized society, Rodgers knows the united front felt inside the Packers' locker room doesn’t extend outside. He said there has been “a lot of hatred” on his social media after the Packers used Sunday’s national anthem before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals to protest inequality and police brutality.
Most players locked arms along the home sideline at Lambeau Field. Tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, along with rookie cornerback Kevin King, sat on a bench while “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played.
Rodgers said the protest was not intended to disrespect the military, but rather to stress unity.
“This is about equality,” Rodgers said. “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.”
It’s unclear how long the Packers will lock arms in unity during the national anthem. Until Sunday, the closest a player had come to using the national anthem to protest came from Bennett, who raised his right fist before the Packers' first two regular-season games.
Their demonstration Sunday was in response to President Donald Trump’s inflammatory remarks at a rally last week in Huntsville, Ala. Rodgers’ request came one day after coach Mike McCarthy called for better communication among opposing viewpoints.
“To me,” McCarthy said, “there’s a lot of things that are being said. I think, more importantly, I think it’s a time to listen. I think everybody can do a better job of listening and make sure the messages that are trying to be delivered are heard and vice versa. I think that’s the biggest thing in life.
"Everybody throws around lack of communication, and I know personally, regardless if it’s here professionally with my players, or even at home with my children, I think we all can sit back and listen a little more right now.”