News, Culture & Society

Packers and Chicago Bears link arms in ‘show of unity’

The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears followed through on their promise to link arms at their Thursday night stand-off in Wisconsin but failed to win over a divided crowd with their demonstration. 

Earlier in the week, the Packers had asked fans to join in by linking arms in the stand as part of a unified show of ‘freedom, equality and tolerance’. 

The teams shied away from categorizing their effort as a protest. Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers instead described it as a ‘call to connect’, saying before the game: ‘This is not a protest. This is a unified demonstration of love and solidarity. 

‘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.’  

As the National Anthem was sung on Thursday, players on both teams linked arms and some held their hands on their hearts.  None took a knee, the symbolic protest against police brutality and racism which has spread across the NFL in the past week after President Trump condemned it. 

Some in the stands mimicked them, joining arms in the stands as they sung along. 

Many remained unaffected and held American flags and signs complaining about the ongoing protest of NFL players during prime time games.

‘Protest on your own time, not on my dime,’ was just one of the messages from the crowd. Immediately before the  Anthem, a chant of ‘USA’ barreled through the stadium.

 

Green Bay Packers link arms at Thursday night’s game at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin on Thursday in what the team described as a ‘display of unification’ which they asked fans to join in on 

Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (center) said before the game: 'This is not a protest. This is a unified show of love and solidarity' 

Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (center) said before the game: ‘This is not a protest. This is a unified show of love and solidarity’ 

Others held signs reading ‘We Stand’ and countless stuck to the time honored tradition of placing their hands on their hearts as the Anthem was sung.  Some mimicked the players, taking the Packers up on their request that they lock arms.

The division mirrored the stand-off between NFL players and President Trump who last week called for any athlete who kneels during the anthem to be fired.

The comment, coupled with his characterization of the players as ‘son of a b****’, sparked a furious debate with the league and has spawned a wider debate about whether athletes should protest on the field or court. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is standing by the players and their right to protest and such demonstrations have been seen at games across the country – and indeed overseas – ever since.  

Chiming in on the issue this week, the Packers released a statement asking their fans to join in on their demonstration on Thursday night. 

They described it not as a protest but as a ‘coming together of players’. 

Some of the players still placed their hands on the hearts while linking arms with teammates 

Some of the players still placed their hands on the hearts while linking arms with teammates 

The team said the demonstration would serve as a 'display of unification'  - but fans were not convinced 

The team said the demonstration would serve as a ‘display of unification’  – but fans were not convinced 

Visiting team the Chicago Bears mimicked their opponents, linking arms as the National Anthem was sung 

Visiting team the Chicago Bears mimicked their opponents, linking arms as the National Anthem was sung 

The Bears players followed suit, linking arms with coaches and teammates on the sidelines before the game kicked off 

The Bears players followed suit, linking arms with coaches and teammates on the sidelines before the game kicked off 

‘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,’ the statement said.

Later, it described it as a ‘moment of unification’. Outraged fans considered it just as much a protest as taking the knee. 

‘I am so ashamed of and appalled by the ignorance of any NFL player who would dare disgrace our Stars and Stripes or the memory of hundreds of thousands of fallen U.S. heroes who paid with their lives so that we may live free,’ Packers shareholder and 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran Steven Tiefenthaler told the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Packers fans are in a unique position to have their voices heard because unlike the privately owned 31 other NFL teams, theirs is divvied up among over 360,000 fans who own over 5 million shares of the franchise.

Trump spent the better part of last weekend attacking protesting NFL players and calling on team owners to suspend anyone who knelt during the national anthem.

Most fans resisted their offer and stuck to placing their hands on their hearts to sing along with the Anthem. Some waved American flags in the crowds 

Most fans resisted their offer and stuck to placing their hands on their hearts to sing along with the Anthem. Some waved American flags in the crowds 

There was the same division in the crowds as some chose to link arms (bottom left) while the majority did not 

There was the same division in the crowds as some chose to link arms (bottom left) while the majority did not 

Some of the crowd joined in but they appeared to be in the minority. Only a few were seen linking arms on coverage of the game

Some of the crowd joined in but they appeared to be in the minority. Only a few were seen linking arms on coverage of the game

A Green Bay Packers fan holds an American flag over the barrier of one of the stands at Lambeau Field on Thursday during the National Anthem 

A Green Bay Packers fan holds an American flag over the barrier of one of the stands at Lambeau Field on Thursday during the National Anthem 

Other fans held signs making their opinions on the NFL protests clear. In the past week, hundreds have taken a knee during the National Anthem as a sign of protest against police brutality and racism. The issue gained traction when the president called for players to be fired because of it 

Other fans held signs making their opinions on the NFL protests clear. In the past week, hundreds have taken a knee during the National Anthem as a sign of protest against police brutality and racism. The issue gained traction when the president called for players to be fired because of it 

A Packers fan wearing an NRA hat holds a sign demonstrating his opinion of the protests on Thursday night 

A Packers fan wearing an NRA hat holds a sign demonstrating his opinion of the protests on Thursday night 

The Packers owners – their shareholders – had a mixed reaction after the President called those protesting ‘sons of b******’ during a speech in Alabama on Friday.

One shareholder, Atlanta’s Audrey Birnbaum Young, took offense.

‘It was absolutely ridiculous for him to insult the owners without considering the fact there are shareholders that are also fans,’ the 34-year old told CNN. ‘We don’t have the power to be able to fire those players but even if we could, there is no way that we would listen to that.’

Shareholder Justin Sipla told CNN that he chooses to stand for the anthem, but does not take offense at any player who chooses to protest, ‘especially if the causes they say they’re doing it for are for reasons of social injustice.’

Sipla was also fine with the decision to lock arms and the team’s request that fans do the same.

‘The American flag to me is symbolic of the freedom that is provided to us by the Constitution of the United States of America,’ he said. ‘That means people who want to sit or stand or do something else during any kind of ceremony long, as it’s peaceful, we have that privilege.’

According to Packers director of public affairs Aaron Popkey, only one share has been returned in counter protest and he is not aware of any fans returning their season tickets. (The shares are irrevocable, which means shareholders will not be compensated for returning them to the team).

During a speech in Alabama on Friday, President Donald Trump to NFL players who kneel during the anthem as 'sons of b******' and repeated his criticisms on Twitter for several days

During a speech in Alabama on Friday, President Donald Trump to NFL players who kneel during the anthem as ‘sons of b******’ and repeated his criticisms on Twitter for several days

‘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,’ Popkey told the Press-Gazette.

Laura Hapke, the daughter of a shareholder, told the Press-Gazette that she did not expect the Packers to make any demonstration on Sunday.

‘If they come out and say they are more into politics than patriotism, I’ll have to rethink it,’ Hapke said of her support for the Packers. ‘It will break my heart, but I’ll have to rethink it.’

And fans aren’t the only ones who have misgivings about the NFL players’ protests.

One Tennessee businessman decided to pull his ads from NFL broadcasts.

Allan Jones, who founded Checks Into Cash, announced on Facebook that he has pulled all commercials for his company from NFL games over the rest of the season.

‘For the 29 States we operate in, this isn’t much to them, but it’s a lot to us,’ Jones wrote on Facebook. ‘Our companies will not condone unpatriotic behavior! TAKING A STAND…NOT A KNEE!’

Rogers talked about the team’s decision to protest with ESPN on Tuesday: ‘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.’ 

He also said that he hopes that by linking arms people will recognize the issues that need to be addressed.  

Three players – Martellus Bennet, Kevin King and Lance Kendricks – sat on the bench during the anthem. 

Bennett, the team’s tight end, protested in the first two games of the season by raising his fist in the air after his brother, Seahawks player Michael Bennett, seemed to be the victim of racial profiling by police in Las Vegas over the summer. 

Trump has called for the league to instate new rules that require players to stand during the anthem – saying anything else is disrespectful to the country and to veterans.

The protests were started before the 2016 season by quarterback Colin Kaepernick – who used his public platform to protest police brutality and racism.

Colin Kaepernick (right), a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started the kneeling trend last year and it quickly grew after Trump condemnation of it last week

Colin Kaepernick (right), a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started the kneeling trend last year and it quickly grew after Trump condemnation of it last week

FULL STATEMENT FROM THE GREEN BAY PACKERS AHEAD OF THEIR GAME ON THURSDAY NIGHT 

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.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.