Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has voiced support for fellow NFL players who kneel during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and social injustice. Rodgers asserted that President Donald Trump's criticisms of these players has obscured the original intention of their protest.
On Sept. 28, the Packers linked their arms together during the national anthem before a game against the Chicago Bears. Green Bay requested that their fans join in on their symbolic gesture.
Following the game, Rodgers explained that his team asked their fans to join them because the Packers wanted to convey a positive message about the NFL protests, CBS Sports reports.
"It was an invitation to join us," Rodgers said. "Beauty is, it's a free country so they can choose to do it or not. The messaging towards this unfortunately needs to continue to be redirected."
The quarterback asserted that NFL players who kneel during the anthem are not disrespecting U.S. military service members:
It's never been about the national anthem. It's never been about the military. We're all patriotic in the locker room. We love our troops. This is about something bigger than that ... As much as some people want us to just shut up and play football and keep the politics to politics, sports and politics have always intersected. And if we can help continue a conversation through demonstration of unity like tonight I think that's a good thing.
Rodgers concluded that NFL protests were "about equality," adding: "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."
On Sept. 22, Trump reignited the national debate over NFL protests when he asserted during an Alabama rally that players who kneel during the anthem should be fired.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b***h off the field right now," Trump said. "Out. He's fired. He's fired!"
All 32 NFL teams responded to the president's comments with gestures of protest, according to the Los Angeles Times. The gestures ranged from linking their arms to remaining in their locker rooms during the national anthem, CBS Sports notes.
In a Sept. 28 interview with Fox News, Trump asserted that NFL team owners are not reprimanding their players because they are intimidated by them.
"The NFL is in a box and they have to do something about it," Trump told Fox News. "I think they're afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth."
On Sept. 29, a CNN/SSRS survey found that 49 percent of adults disapproved of NFL protests during the national anthem, while 43 percent believed the players were doing the right thing. Meanwhile, 34 percent of respondents approved of Trump's criticisms of these NFL players, while 60 percent disapproved and 6 percent either didn't know, were undecided or did not respond.