The team had stressed that the demonstration was not a protest against the anthem, but they likely did not get as much fan involvement as they had hoped for, with many fans singing along with the song and waving flags rather than following the team’s suggestion of linking arms.
“This is about equality,” Rodgers told reporters when asked about the team’s plans on Tuesday. “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.”
The reaction to the request from fans and the media remained mixed during the week, with some Packers fans insisting they would play no part in any anthem demonstration.
Rodgers, known for his wry sense of humor, poked fun at the entire situation on Wednesday by posting a photo to Instagram of the Packers locking arms during the anthem last week. His caption pointed out that the cameramen in front of the players were kneeling and one was even wearing a hat.
While Rodgers was more than willing to mock the outrage, he also made a point of showing respect to law enforcement. About four hours before the game started, he posted to Twitter that he would not be doing his normal Rodgers Ticket Hunt, where he engages with fans in a scavenger hunt for free tickets to the game. He had given his allotment of tickets to Green Bay’s police officers.
Protests and demonstrations during the anthem began last season when Colin Kaepernick first sat, and later knelt, during the anthem in hopes of raising awareness of systemic inequality and police brutality against African-Americans. Things came to a head when President Trump, at a campaign rally on Sept. 22, said N.F.L. owners should fire protesting players. The league responded to Trump’s comments in force, with each game featuring at least some form of protest. Hundreds of players locked arms, many knelt or sat, and three teams staying off the field entirely while the song played.
Even before the Packers and Bears moved the demonstration into a second week, the issue was not going away. Earlier Thursday, Trump continued his attacks on players in an interview with Fox News. He claimed N.F.L. owners, many of whom he is friends with, are essentially trapped into supporting something they do not actually agree with.
“I think they’re afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said, “and I think it’s disgraceful.”
His administration also inadvertently stumbled in its framing of the race-based issue when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to laugh off a reporter seeking clarification on the president’s stance on the protests, by saying “I don’t think there’s much to clarify. It’s pretty black and white there.”
Kaepernick, who parted ways with the 49ers after last season, remains unsigned, and while he has not commented directly on any of the recent developments, he has been active on Twitter, retweeting various messages of support. On Thursday he retweeted an Instagram post from Know Your Rights Camp, a campaign he started with a mission of raising awareness of self empowerment and a goal of teaching people how to interact with law enforcement. The image was a collage of various victims of police brutality, with Kaepernick kneeling in the center.
The caption of the post said “The news media, racists and the NFL may try to change the narrative, but this is who Kap kneeled for! This page will always keep the ‘real’ narrative of Kap’s protest alive!”
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