Wisconsin’s Green Bay Packers, who have a deep history of fan support through good times and bad, asked fans to join them in linking arms during the national anthem at last night’s home game against the Chicago Bears. Most fans refused.
While Packers and Bears players and coaches linked arms on the field, a plethora of little American flags popped up all over the stadium. Fans shouted “USA! USA!” while a large flag unfurled over the field. Local reports say some people even went farther in their displays of respect for the United States:
In the concourse, some people removed their hats as the anthem started to play, some stopped walking, some even saluted towards the TV’s displaying what was happening on the field, while crowds continued to move around them to get to their seat before kickoff. Some fans outside the stadium also stopped for the anthem.
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) September 29, 2017
Two days before the game, the Pack released a statement asking fans to join them in linking arms at this game to celebrate “diversity” and “justice”:
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.
At last Sunday’s game, during which an NFL-wide protest had been announced, several Packers players linked arms on the sidelines during the national anthem, while “Three players – veteran tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, along with rookie cornerback Kevin King – sat on the bench during the anthem behind the rest of the team, all for different reasons.” Afterwards, the team decided to try this week for a unified display.
“This is about equality. This is about unity, and love, and growing together as a society, and starting a conversation around something that might be a little uncomfortable for people. But we have 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,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “This week we’re going to ask the fans to join in as well, come together and show people we can be connected, and we can grow together.”
Here’s how fans responded.
— Matt Batzel (@MattBatzel) September 29, 2017
Green Bay Packers ask fans
to lock arms
95% of fans refused &
put their hands over their hearts or saluted
National Anthem pic.twitter.com/KiZUhDd4vp
— Citizen Dale (@Trumptbird) September 29, 2017
Rodgers seemed bewildered by the fan response. Didn’t fans get that this was “an invitation to show unity in the face of some divisiveness from the top in this country”? Maybe they see the source of division as from a different elite than Rodgers does.
— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) September 29, 2017
Regardless of what the Packers and other teams say they mean with the national anthem protests, the message many fans are getting is anti-Americanism. Laura Hapke’s mother is a Packers shareholder — Packers shares are irrevocable and a sign of full fan investment. Hapke meets with other Packers fans every week to watch their games and is on the season-ticket waiting list. She told USA Today “the Packers were the last team she expected to do what they did Sunday.”
“If they come out and say they are more into politics than patriotism, I’ll have to rethink it,” she said. “It will break my heart, but I’ll have to rethink it.”
The Steelers and Broncos have released statements saying their teams will resume standing for the anthem, starting Sunday.