Players ask fans to link arms in unity before Packers-Bears game

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Green Bay Packers players, coaches and staff will link arms during the national anthem at Thursday's home game against the Chicago Bears. They're asking fans in the stands at Lambeau Field to link arms as a show of unity.

"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." reads a statement from the team.

Read the full statement here.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers spoke with reporters about the effort to show support for equality, the basis of protests across the NFL.

"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," Rodgers said Tuesday. "But we've got to come together and talk about these things and growing as a community, as a connected group of individuals in our society, and 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."

Head Coach Mike McCarthy says he's proud of his team. "The approach is one of a positive nature, and that's definitely the preference. Locking arms and honoring the flag, I think it's a very good thing."

Action 2 News asked Wis. Gov. Scott Walker about the protest. The governor attended last Sunday's game.

"I personally believe, and my family believes that when the national anthem is played for all those men and women who fought, like the people when I was in Korea a few weeks ago, I laid a wreath at the memorial for the Korean War and thought about my uncle who was in the Korean War," Gov. Walker says. "For all of those veterans and all those men and women fighting today, I just think that's it's critically important personally to show respect and put my hand over my heart. But in terms of what others do I'll leave it to them to explain what they do or don't do."

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) tweeted a message of support for the players.

"I support the @packers call for unity in support of freedom, equality, tolerance, understanding and justice for all," Baldwin tweeted.

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) provided this statement to Action 2 News: “I love the Packers, but many men and women—better than I or any sports star—have died to defend the American flag and Constitution. Their sacrifices give us the privilege of enjoying football and resolving our differences peacefully here at home. If that’s not something to stand for then I don't know what is.”

Rodgers and teammates linked arms last Sunday during the national anthem. Three players--Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, and Kevin King--sat during the anthem.

Anthem protests in the NFL grew after President Donald Trump called for the NFL to fire players who kneel or sit in protest during the anthem.

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired,'" Trump said in a speech last Friday.

In 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first high-profile player to sit out the anthem, saying he would not "stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

There was a league-wide response to President Trump's remarks. Owners and players took to social media to release statements.

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said, "It's unfortunate that the President decided to use his immense platform to make divisive and offensive statements about our players and the NFL. We strongly believe that players are leaders in our communities and positive influences."

Kickoff for Thursday's Packers-Bears game is 7:25 p.m.