If 80,000-or-so fans at Lambeau Field follow through on the Green Bay Packers players' literal and peaceful call to arms, it may be a sight of unity unseen in American pro sports.
The Packers players, led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers' public request Tuesday, have asked for the fans attending Thursday night's nationally-televised game against the Chicago Bears to lock arms in a unified show of solidarity during the national anthem. The players say they will do the same, four days after most of them did that during the anthem in Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Our players want to be part of the positive influence that's going on right now. I think it's a good thing, what they have proposed,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy on WTMJ's “Wisconsin's Morning News” in his first public comments about the subject.
McCarthy would not express his own thoughts about President Trump's critical comments about NFL players protesting during the anthem, but he said his team was putting its attention on unity, and on football.
“Our players are focused on the professional and personal part of their jobs. As Green Bay Packers, we stay within the values of this great organization and our great country.”
Three players – tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, and cornerback Kevin King – chose to sit down during the anthem Sunday after the public comments of President Donald Trump about protests during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
“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,” Rodgers said in comments Tuesday.
“We're going to continue to show love and unity, and this week, we're going to ask the fans to join in as well and come together and show people that we can be connected and we can grow together.”
After Sunday's show of support for protests across the NFL, Rodgers said he has received hateful and negative messages on social media following his own statement before Sunday's game. “Frankly don't understand” those messages, he said.
“It's never been about the military or our men and women in uniform. Like I said after the game, we love and support them and each of us I'm sure have done charity events for them,” Rodgers said. “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.”
Listen to Mike McCarthy's full comments below.