Los Angeles (AFP) – Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday the team would continue to lock arms in solidarity during the national anthem as President Donald Trump unleashed a fresh blast against NFL protesters.
Rodgers and his Packers teammates stood with arms interlinked during Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, while three other players chose to sit on the bench during a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Packers display came on an unprecedented day of protest across the National Football League triggered by Trump’s tirade against players who kneel or sit during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice.
Rodgers told reporters on Tuesday the Packers would continue to show solidarity with protesters, and called on fans in the stadium to link arms as well.
“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 quarterback said.
“This week we’re going to ask the fans to join in as well and come together and show that we can be connected and we can grow together.”
The quarterback said he was concerned that the message of the team’s display of unity was being misconstrued, emphasising once again that there was no intention of being disrespectful to the military.
“Outside the building, I think the message has been diluted a little bit and it’s been kind of taken away from what we were trying to do: show a united front, guys linking up together,” Rodgers 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 has done charity events for them.
“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.”
The Packers will face a primetime national audience when they face the Chicago Bears on Thursday to kick off the latest round of NFL fixtures.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump fired off a fresh salvo in the ongoing controversy, noting the boos from fans in Arizona on Monday night after the entire Dallas Cowboys team kneeled before the anthem was played.
“The booing at the NFL football game last night, when the entire Dallas team dropped to its knees, was loudest I have ever heard. Great anger,” Trump wrote on Twitter, demanding the NFL introduce a rule to make standing for the anthem compulsory.
“The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!”