GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers agrees with the idea that NFL players should speak out on social issues more often. But the Green Bay Packers quarterback believes the NFL's culture discourages its players from being more vocal.
Speaking in an interview on ESPN Wisconsin's "Wilde & Tausch" last week, Rodgers said he read a story in which Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said NFL players need to speak out more often. Bennett also mentioned Rodgers by name in similar comments when he arrived at training camp.
Rodgers was in the crowd at the ESPYS last month and praised NBA stars LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade for opening the evening by calling on athletes to promote social change.
"It's got to be natural, it's got to be authentic, and I think those guys did a really good job. It was a great message," Rodgers said. "The thing I'll say in reference to speaking your mind, [I read] a piece on the Bennetts recently -- Michael and Martellus. And I turned to a friend and I said, 'Why do we have to say that it's refreshing when someone speaks their mind? Or is honest now?' I think that's kind of a societal issue that we have.
"We need more guys like that who feel comfortable speaking their mind."
The interview with Rodgers was conducted before riots broke out in Milwaukee on Saturday night in the aftermath of a police-involved shooting. Six businesses on the city's north side were set on fire, four officers were injured and 17 people were arrested, according to the Milwaukee Police Department. More unrest followed Sunday night.
Asked after Monday's practice about what had gone on in Milwaukee, which is less than two hours south of Green Bay, Rodgers replied, "I don't know the specifics about it, but I do know that our heart goes out to those affected down there. This is a connected world. Anytime there's a disconnect like that, it's disappointing to see. Our thoughts and our prayers go with all of those affected, and we hope that the violence doesn't continue down there."
Speaking to reporters as the Seahawks arrived at training camp July 31, Bennett called on players to step forward on social issues.
"You don't see a lot of great players talking about things socially, whether it's Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. All of these guys, they're white. They don't have to deal with the things that we deal with as black players, so it's not as many," Bennett said.
"In the NBA, everybody is standing up for it, so the greatest players are in the forefront of the movement. Here in the NFL, the greatest players aren't in the forefront of the movement. Whether it's the [collective bargaining agreement], whether it's things going on with trying to change the way -- concussions. The greatest players aren't involved like LeBron James, Chris Paul and all these guys [in the NBA]. Our great players are sitting back just taking the dollars, whether it's Cam Newton, all these guys. They're not really on the forefront of trying to change what's going on."
Asked in the ESPN Wisconsin interview whether he believes the NBA culture allows players to speak their minds more readily than the NFL, Rodgers replied, "One-hundred percent. And I think it starts with leadership. I think [NBA commissioner Adam Silver] has done a good job promoting that type of environment. And I think some guys in the NFL are probably worried about repercussions on speaking their mind from the league."
Rodgers acknowledged that he has not been particularly outspoken.
"Those guys are doing it and they feel comfortable doing it," Rodgers said. "I think if more guys maybe did in our league, it would create a domino effect possibly."