If Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have their way, fans at Lambeau Field on Thursday night will make a statement during the national anthem, taking the show of unity into the stands and continuing on-the-field demonstrations that took place at games across the country into the NFL’s fourth week of games.
Rodgers, who stood for the anthem and linked arms with his teammates Sunday before the Packers’ game against the Bengals at Lambeau Field, hopes fans will emulate him and the team in what he says is a show of unity, “starting a conversation around something that may be a little bit uncomfortable for people” Thursday night at the stadium, which seats 81,441.
“This is about equality,” Rodgers said Tuesday (via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky). “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.”
Packers tight end Lance Kendricks said the idea to get fans involved came from Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, whose brother, the Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, allegedly was assaulted by Las Vegas police after the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight last month.
“Aaron spoke first,” Kendricks said of the Packers’ team meeting, “and he kind of laid it out and laid out the fact that he’s on our side and he understands the message being conveyed and trying to get across. And then Marty wrote a statement, and in the statement he said we’re going to lock arms and he’s going to challenge the fans to lock arms as well, so it kind of puts them in a position where it’s like, ‘Look, you’re either going to unite with us or you’re not.’ I think that’s really cool, because it puts them in a position where it’s like now we’re talking to you, so you make a decision, peacefully make a decision.”
Later Tuesday night, the Packers furthered Rodgers’s comments, saying in the statement that coaches and staff would join them.
“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,” the players said in part in the statement. “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.
“Let’s work together to build a society that is more fair and just.”
The demonstrations during the national anthem, which ranged from players linking arms to taking a knee to the Cowboys taking a knee and then standing with arms linked for the song, took place in stadiums across the country in response to President Trump calling any player who kneels during the anthem to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality a “son of a bitch.” Trump went on to urge owners to fire or suspend those players.
Rogers has supported Colin Kaepernick, who started the anthem protests in the summer of 2016, telling ESPN that he thinks Kaepernick is being blackballed by owners. “I think he should be on a roster right now,” he said. “I think because of his protests, he’s not.”
In that interview, Rodgers explained to Mina Kimes the evolution of his thinking. He intends to stand for the anthem “because that’s the way I feel about the flag — but I’m also 100 percent supportive of my teammates or any fellow players who are choosing not to,” he says. “They have a battle for racial equality. That’s what they’re trying to get a conversation started around.”
Indeed, that was Kaepernick’s purpose, as he stated from the beginning. The protest wasn’t directed at the military; rather, it was to raise awareness of other issues. He may not be on a team now, but he started a locker room conversation and has increased awareness among players.
“I think the best way I can say this is: I don’t understand what it’s like to be in that situation. What it is to be pulled over, or profiled, or any number of issues that have happened, that Colin was referencing — or any of my teammates have talked to me about,” Rodgers told Kimes. “But I know it’s a real thing my black teammates have to deal with.”
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