PHOTOS | Bears, Packers lock arms on each sideline in display of unity during anthem

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears players, coaches and other staffers locked arms on the sidelines during the national anthem Thursday night.

Many fans at Lambeau Field cheered and chanted “USA! USA!” while a large American flag was unfurled at midfield before the anthem.

Packers players released a statement this week saying they would intertwine arms before the game as a show of unity. They asked fans to join in the stands and at home, though it didn’t appear that many fans locked arms. Many people in the crowd held up small flags during and after the anthem.

Players across the league drew sharp criticism last week after kneeling during the anthem to protest social injustice and police violence.

The Packers’ statement in its entirety:

The NFL family is one of the most diverse communities in the world. Just look around! The eclectic group of players that you root for, the coaches you admire, the people you sit next to in the stands, those high-fiving on military bases, fans at the sports bar or during tailgate parties—we all come from different walks of life and have unique backgrounds and stories.

The game of football brings people together. As NFL players, we are a living testimony that individuals from different backgrounds and with different life experiences can work together toward a common goal.

This Thursday during the national anthem at Lambeau Field, Packers players, coaches and staff will join together with arms intertwined—connected like the threads on your favorite jersey. When we take this action, what you will see will be so much more than just a bunch of football players locking arms. The image you will see on September 28th will be one of unity. It will represent a coming together of players who want the same things that all of us do—freedom, equality, tolerance, understanding, and justice for those who have been unjustly treated, discriminated against or otherwise treated unfairly. You will see the sons of police officers, kids who grew up in military families, people who have themselves experienced injustice and discrimination firsthand, and an array of others all linking together in a display of unity.

Those of us joining arms on Thursday will be different in so many ways, but one thing that binds us together is that we are all individuals who want to help make our society, our country and our world a better place. We believe that in diversity there can be UNI-versity. Intertwined, we represent the many people who helped build this country, and we are joining together to show that we are ready to continue to build.

Let’s work together to build a society that is more fair and just.

Join us this Thursday by locking arms with whoever you’re with, stranger or loved one, wherever you are—intertwined and included—in this moment of unification.