Green Bay Packers players, coaches and staff locked arms during the national anthem Thursday night, a plan they revealed earlier this week, prior to their game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. Many Bears players and coaches did the same.
Some fans in the stands also locked arms in unison with the Packers, while others held their hands over their hearts and some saluted during the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.
A chant of "U-S-A" rolled through the stadium prior to the anthem.
Green Bay players released a statement through the team website Tuesday night inviting fans to join them in portraying unity, locking arms in the stands during the national anthem.
Coach Mike McCarthy said this week he was “proud” not just of his players’ statement, but also how his team has gone about the past week.
“They put a lot of time and energy and thought into it,” McCarthy said. “They’ve met, they’ve had a chance to discuss, you know, each and every guy that expressed his opinion. I think it’s like anything in life, you’re never going to have everybody feel 100% the same way, but it’s just something we’ve talked about a lot as a football team because I always want to make sure the why — why are we doing this? — is explained.”
Tight end Martellus Bennett said he liked the idea of the Packers franchise being a symbol of unity.
"This is one of the most diverse workplaces in the world," Bennett said. "We’ve got guys from all different types of backgrounds, and if we can come together and be unified for one goal, which in this metaphor that common goal is a Super Bowl or winning games, the Super Bowl in life is one where everyone can live in harmony, peace and everything could be unified. So we’re a walking testimony that it can be done, that you can work with people who aren’t like you, from different backgrounds, and reach a common goal if everybody wants the same thing."
Still, opinions were divided in Wisconsin, as they seem to be throughout the country.
Packers fans on Wednesday continued to blast the NFL, the team and players for what they perceive as showing disrespect for the nation, the flag, the military or the national anthem by sitting, kneeling, remaining in the locker room or locking arms during the national anthem. Supporters say players are peacefully exercising their free speech rights on the best stage available.
"We’ve had a steady stream of feedback beginning Monday morning and it continued into Wednesday. We’ve heard on both sides of the matter," said Aaron Popkey, Packers director of public affairs. "We take note of their concerns."