In the days leading up to the Green Bay Packers’ Thursday night victory over the Chicago Bears, the team asked its fans to join the players in a demonstration of unity—locking arms—during the national anthem. The Packers’ call for solidarity came after President Donald Trump urged NFL owners to fire any player who kneeled during the national anthem. In response to the team’s request, one made in part by its star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, many fans expressed anger over what they perceived as the Packers’ disrespect for the flag, the anthem, and the military—even though black players, taking a cue from Colin Kaepernick, have made clear that they are kneeling in protest against police brutality and racism.
Yet critics maintain that the Packers have betrayed not only the country but also the pater familias of football: legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi. Venting their displeasure with the Packers’ demonstration on social media, self-proclaimed super patriots lamented that Lombardi must be rolling in his grave in shame that his Packers refused to honor the flag. (“The Star-Spangled Banner” has only been played regularly at sporting events since World War II.) Country music singer Charlie Daniels, who has said he is boycotting the NFL due to the anthem protests, tweeted, “Wonder how Vince Lombardi would have reacted to his players kneeling during the anthem.”
Though not universal, the fan backlash against the Packers raises more questions about Lombardi’s legacy: Why has he become a prominent symbol of law and order in the age of Trump? And why do so many Americans hold such an unwavering belief in the patriotic significance of football? Perhaps it’s because President Trump himself has invoked the memory of Lombardi as the kind of leader he admires: a winner whose unquestioned authority made him seem all the more heroic to his supporters. In the late 1960s, no football coach commanded more respect than Lombardi, who had led the Packers to five NFL championships. Continue reading at Slate.com.
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