Packers GM Ted Thompson on anthem protests: It's a free country

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No Green Bay Packers players have protested during the national anthem, but the head of their football operation made it sound like he wouldn’t have a problem if they did.

When asked if he would support a player who protested by sitting during the national anthem, Packers general manager Ted Thompson said: "I view this as something that you’re asking me from a personal standpoint -- not what I would do but what I would feel about a particular player if he made such and such action or if he failed to make such and such action. This is a free country, in my opinion, and free people can do what they like."

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, the brother of Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, sat during the anthem in the preseason opener last week. Martellus said he supported his brother’s actions and believes athletes should use their platform to address social issues but would not say whether he planned any protests.

“I make my statements every day,” Martellus Bennett said. “I’m more of an in-the-moment type guy. I don’t preplan anything like that. If it happens, it happens. I’ll never do anything out of malicious intent, but I support him, 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. I support everybody and always will. I always will be very pro-black, I guess would be the term to say.”

Coach Mike McCarthy first addressed the national anthem publicly during the preseason last year when Kaepernick, then the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, was first known to have sat during the anthem in a preseason game against the Packers. McCarthy said then that the anthem has long been a topic of discussion with the team, and this year was no different.

“It’s something that I’ve done each and every year here since I’ve been the head coach,” McCarthy said this week. “We have a PowerPoint presentation that you update, and you always try to deliver the message clearly to the team. 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 game, particularly it started after World War II. I go through the whole history and the importance of what it means to you personally, and that’s something that I think we did right before Family Night, which is the norm.”