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Packers Fans Divided Over Locking Arms During National Anthem

Extra Officers On Field For Packers-Bears Game During Show Of Unity

Packers linking arms
Mike Roemer/AP Photo

A request by Green Bay Packers players asking fans to join them in a show of unity during the national anthem yielded mixed results ahead of their Thursday kickoff against the Chicago Bears.

Before the national anthem on Thursday, the stadium erupted in people chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” But while country music artist Tyler Farr sang the national anthem, TV footage showed some fans in the stands of Lambeau Field linked arms, while others held their hands over their hearts or saluted the American flag.

Fans were asked earlier this week by the Packers players to join them, coaches and staff in linking arms during the national anthem.

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The players say the image they want to portray is unity for those who have been unjustly treated.

The Chicago Bears joined the Packers in linking arms Thursday. The Bears also stood and linked arms during the national anthem Sunday.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers told ESPN on Tuesday that, “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.”

In a statement released Tuesday evening, the Packers players called upon fans to lock arms “with whoever you’re with, stranger or loved one, wherever you are — intertwined and included— in this moment of unification.”

The letter, signed “The Packers Players,” stressed the diversity within the “NFL family,” claiming football unites fans, players and coaches from different backgrounds and with different stories.

Coach Mike McCarthy locked arms with the players Thursday while also holding a hand over his heart.

McCarthy said previously he is proud of his players and of their statement. The team met to discuss the demonstration and each player was able to express his opinion, McCarthy said.

Tight end Martellus Bennett told WBAY-TV he helped author the team’s Tuesday statement, and said “this is a conversation you can’t avoid… The place you felt like you could avoid it with was sports, and now you still have to have this conversation. One way or another, you’re going to have to talk about it.”

Some football fans have said teams, players and the NFL are disrespecting the United States, the military or the national anthem by locking arms, kneeling or sitting during the national anthem.

Fans hold a flag during the national anthem before the Green Bay Packers game Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Morry Gash/AP Photo

Reactions From Packers, Bears Fans

At Sunday’s home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, most Packers players linked arms on the sideline, three — tight ends Bennett and Lance Kendricks, and rookie corner Kevin King — sat on the bench.

Sunday’s demonstration was a response to President Donald Trump’s remarks during a rally in Alabama where he said NFL players protesting inequality and police brutality during the national anthem should be fired.

James Jones, a Bears fan, said before Thursday’s game that it’s a good thing Trump’s comments to the NFL sparked debate.

“I’m all about debate,” Jones said, of Baltimore, Maryland.

“I think it helps to bring up what issues we have as a country and just spark a debate,” Jones said. “Myself, I’m going to stand for the national anthem, but I don’t disapprove of somebody taking a knee.”

But his friend Doug Black, a Packers fan, said if fans, players and coaches are going to do such demonstrations, it should remain peaceful.

Fans lock arms during the national anthem before the Green Bay Packers game Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis.Morry Gash/AP Photo

“I bleed green and gold. We’re all Americans, but right now we’re all about football, and there’s some people that are taking one thing to another thing. To each his own as long as it’s peaceful,” said Black, also from Baltimore.

Dan Dagenais of Marquette, Michigan, was tailgating Thursday afternoon a block from Lambeau.

He said he didn’t agree with those choosing to kneel during the national anthem.

“I think it’s wrong the way they kneel. I was brought up the way we respect the flag, let’s keep it that way.”

One Packers fan held a sign Thursday inside the stadium that said, “We stand.” Another Packers fan held a sign that said, “Protest on your own time, not on my dime.”

Since Sunday, Rodgers has posted social media posts using the hashtags “#unity” and “#equalityforall.”

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem last season when he played for the San Francisco 49ers, and its since gathered more momentum. However, Kaepernick’s motive stemmed from concern for racial equality, while the most recent demonstrations seem to stem directly from Trump’s comments.

Below is the Packers letter in its entirety:

The NFL family is one of the most diverse communities in the world. Just look around! The eclectic group of players that you root for, the coaches you admire, the people you sit next to in the stands, those high-fiving on military bases, fans at the sports bar or during tailgate parties—we all come from different walks of life and have unique backgrounds and stories.

The game of football brings people together. As NFL players, we are a living testimony that individuals from different backgrounds and with different life experiences can work together toward a common goal.

This Thursday during the national anthem at Lambeau Field, Packers players, coaches and staff will join together with arms intertwined—connected like the threads on your favorite jersey. When we take this action, what you will see will be so much more than just a bunch of football players locking arms. The image you will see on September 28th will be one of unity. It will represent a coming together of players who want the same things that all of us do—freedom, equality, tolerance, understanding, and justice for those who have been unjustly treated, discriminated against or otherwise treated unfairly. You will see the sons of police officers, kids who grew up in military families, people who have themselves experienced injustice and discrimination firsthand, and an array of others all linking together in a display of unity.

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.

Let’s work together to build a society that is more fair and just.

Join us this Thursday by locking arms with whoever you’re with, stranger or loved one, wherever you are—intertwined and included—in this moment of unification.

– The Packers Players

It was reported earlier Thursday that Green Bay police said they’ll have more officers on the field than usual during the show of unity at Lambeau Field.

WBAY-TV reported the police department says more officers will be assigned to protect people on the field in case anyone in the crowd throws an object, or to stop anyone who tries to get on the field. The department says it’s not adding any officers to its security detail at the stadium, just moving more officers to the field.

Editor’s Note: This story was last updated at 9:07 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017.