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The national anthem is a divisive topic among NFL circles these days, but Mike McCarthy knows where he stands.
The longtime head coach of the Green Bay Packers has shown the same PowerPoint presentation during every training camp since 2006, according to Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal, with the aim of educating his players on the history and etiquette associated with “The Star Spangled Banner.”
While this practice was in place long before big names from around the league like Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett began to use the national anthem as a platform to protest racial inequality in the United States, it has taken on a new significance in light of the wave of activism.
“Our approach has always been to give the history and the understanding of what the national anthem means, and why it’s played before any National Football League game, particularly how [the tradition] started after World War II,” McCarthy told Wilde. “I go through the whole history and the importance of what it means to you personally.”
If the protests have changed McCarthy’s attitude towards the anthem, he hasn’t let it on. His players say that this year’s presentation was the same as ever.
“He just tells you to put your hand over your heart,” said left guard Lane Taylor, who’s entering his fifth season as a Packer. “I think he says it’s something he appreciates and stuff. I think it’s been pretty standard, and I know it’s a big subject nowadays, but he hasn’t changed the way he presents it to us or anything.”
Like much of the nation, the Green Bay locker room appears divided on the national anthem controversy. The team’s new tight end, Martellus Bennett, is the younger brother of Michael Bennett, the Seattle Seahawks defensive end who’s been a vocal advocate for the protests this preseason.
“I support [Michael], I support his movement, I support Colin Kaepernick, I support all the guys, Angela Davis, all the people that came before us to pave the way for what we’re trying to do in the black community,” said the younger Bennett, according to ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia. “I support everybody and always will. I always will be very pro black, I guess would be the term to say.”
Packers defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois has a different opinion of the protests.
“It’s a waste of time,” he said. “It’s a waste of my energy. I understand it may help, but tell me what’s going to help right now with what’s going on in the country. Nothing, really. At the end of the day, the only people I can help is my wife, my kids, my family – and that’s it.”