CHICAGO (TNS) — New coach Matt Nagy's Bears team will be scrutinized even before kickoff Thursday at the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
The Bears and Ravens play the NFL's first exhibition game of the year then, and the league and the NFL Players Association have yet to announce a resolution to their discussions about the rule that would regulate how players act during the national anthem.
Amid ongoing debate about whether players should be allowed to kneel during the anthem to protest social injustices, NFL owners decided this spring to require them to either stand or stay in the locker room and allowed penalties for protests on the field. The NFLPA filed a grievance in early July against the new rule, and the NFL announced it would not implement it until the two sides have finished their discussions.
As of now, that leaves the Bears and Ravens on their own for determining their course of action Thursday.
Bears coach Matt Nagy has put off talking about how his team will handle it — whether they will stand on the sideline or stay in the locker room, and if any protesting player would be punished. He said Tuesday the players have had conversations about the action they will take and that the team would finalize it before the game.
"But I feel really, really good with where we're at," Nagy said. "I feel comfortable, and I know this: Whatever we do, we're going to do it together."
Bears outside linebacker and NFLPA rep Sam Acho also expects the team to be in unison, even if it means compromise from some parties.
"We come from so many different backgrounds and experiences, so it's going to be hard to figure out one solution that fits everyone," Acho said. "But the great thing about a team is when you do something for your brothers, you're doing it for yourself. And so even if you don't believe wholeheartedly in some issue, you believe in your teammates, so you do it for your teammates."
If precedent gives any insight into how the Bears will handle it, Chairman George McCaskey made it known in June he believes players should stand for the anthem, and no player from the Bears last season protested during it.
The issue played out prominently in Week 3 of the 2017 season following President Donald Trump's comments and tweets that players should be suspended or fired for not standing and that fans should boycott the league until such actions were taken.
The Bears played the Steelers at Soldier Field that week, and while all but one of the Steelers players remained in the locker room for the anthem, Bears players stood on the sideline shoulder to shoulder, many of them linking arms.
But Bears players like Acho and safety Adrian Amos also want to make it clear they feel deeply about the social justice issues that are at the root of the protests. They want to make sure that the fight against those problems isn't lost.
"I do want people to know that I'm aware of the stuff that's going on," Amos said. "I'm aware that there are a lot of injustices. And I don't really like when people tell us that we're not supposed to use our platform for certain things. Because when we use our platform for things that other people like or that will affect other people, then it's OK.
"But since this is something that a minority group deals with, it's not seen as important. So it's like, 'Just play football and be quiet.' I don't like that. Just like when you have LeBron (James) and you're telling him to shut up and dribble, but he's building a whole school. There are people doing a lot of great things."
Acho is among the most active Bears players in the community, and he said his teammates have had discussions about how best to invest their time and money to make a difference.
"I'm confident that whatever comes out on Thursday, that whatever we do as a team _ once again we're going to do it together _ we're going to make substantive and significant change in Chicago," Acho said. "That's my goal. If you ask me, I want to see the whole city of Chicago changed. I want to see the reputation of Chicago changed, and I'm confident we as a team are going to be a big catalyst behind that."