2ND UPDATE, 7 PM: The lightning has passed, fans are returning to their seats, and the game is about to resume. Players were given 10 minutes to warm up after the 45-minute delay.
UPDATED, 6:18 PM: A lightning storm is predicted to hit the Green Bay area soon, so NFL officials have suspended the Bears-Packers game. During the commercial break after the first quarter, a weather warning was issued, and CBS announcer Jim Nantz said, “They asked everyone for their personal safety to move to the shelter of the concourses in an orderly manner.” The feed cut to players returning to their locker rooms and fans leaving their seats, and lightning flashes were shown. We will update when the game resumes.
PREVIOUSLY, 6:15 PM: To kneel or not to kneel was the question tonight as CBS got ready to air its Thursday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. It was answered before the national anthem was played.
With military personnel in uniform in the background, sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson said Packers All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers said his team met ahead of time and “what they decided to do was to link arms for the national anthem, and they want everyone in the stadium — all the fans — to be linking arms as well.” She said Rodgers told CBS: “This is not a protest. This is a unified demonstration of love and solidarity, a call to connect,” adding that it “might be a little uncomfortable for people.”
Many in the crowd cheered as cameras showed the Packers linking arms.
Reporter Jay Feely was on the Bears sideline, and he said the team’s “players, coaches and ownership met to discuss the national anthem. They decided they would stand and link arms as well in a sign of unity.” They did, and crowd shots showed fans waving American flags and mostly smiling, though some looked irked as they chanted “USA! USA!”
The controversy, of course, dates to then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick choosing to kneel during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” last year to protest police shootings of black men. The controversy was kicked into high gear this past weekend when President Donald Trump suggested at a rally and on Twitter that NFL players choosing to kneel or otherwise protest during the national anthem should be fired or suspended. POTUS continued to take 140-character shots at the league and its players for the next several days.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Trump’s comments “divisive.”
Also last weekend, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors said they would not make the traditional visit to the White House.
Meanwhile, three of the NHL’s highest-profile black players — Canadians P.K. Subban, Joel Ward and Wayne Simmonds — have weighed in on the controversy. The 31-team pro hockey league has 27 black players.
San Jose Sharks winger Joel Ward said earlier in the week that he might kneel for the American anthem. But he took to social media today to explain why he chose not to do so. “Make no mistake that racism exists and that people of color are treated differently on a day-to-day basis,” his long post reads in part. “I also feel that the original message that was trying to be communicated has been lost. The focus has shifted to the act of kneeling itself or to a protest of the flag or the military. What are we really talking about here? … Although I fully support those who before me have taken the lead in bringing awareness to these issues, I will not kneel during the national anthem like my brothers have done.”
Nashville Predators All-Star defenseman Subban said at an event this week that he will “never” kneel for the American anthem for a political protest, according to Yahoo Sports. Predators coach Peter Laviolette had said earlier that day that the teams “met as a group, and our decision is we’re going to stand for the national anthem out of respect for the anthem, for our country, for the people who serve for our country,” The Tenneseean reports.
Simmonds, the Philadelphia Flyers winger who began his career with the Los Angeles Kings, became irritated when the issue was raised by reporters. “All anyone wants to talk about right now is why they’re kneeling, and if you’re disrespecting the Army or the national anthem or whatever it might be,” the Ontario native said, per CSN Philly. “It’s an American issue right now. We’re talking about America. We’re talking about the United States of America. We’re not talking about Canada. I’m a black male living in the United States, and for the majority of my time, majority of the last 10 years I’ve lived here, I definitely understand what everyone is protesting about it and I definitely support the cause. … I’m not here to talk about the kneeling. I’m here to talk about the bigger issues.”
On Wednesday, the NHL Players Association issued this statement:
“We believe each player may choose to speak out or engage in peaceful protest on matters that are important to him. A player is entitled to his own views on political and social issues, and the right of each player to express such views deserves respect. Should a player decide to make such a peaceful protest, he would of course have the full support of the NHLPA in regard to his right to do so.”