It was hard to miss.
Bears players locked arms during the National Anthem.
Steelers players stayed in their locker room, except one, a military veteran, who stood near the mouth of the tunnel.
When the song was over and the Steelers took the field, a segment of Bears nation voiced their displeasure.
“It was probably the loudest boos I’ve ever heard in my life,” said Serage Rahn, an MRI technologist from Burbank.
Part of it might have been simple hatred of the opposition, but most felt there was more behind the boos.
“I thought it was a little much, but I didn’t boo them,” Rahn said. “I think this country is founded on free speech and you get to do what you want.”
Dan Konen, 53, a firefighter from west suburban Aurora, took the Steelers gesture as a sign of disrespect. “Give the guys who would sacrifice their lives for this country just one ounce of respect and stand out there for the National Anthem,” he said.
“I think when they’re hired they should put that as a stipulation in their contract. In my job, if I strike, I get fired. It should be the same for them. You think they won’t take the job? They’ll take the job. They’ll take the money,” he said.
“I think that the problem with this country is that most of the people, when they have an opinion they think is right, they don’t say anything. A lot of the people who feel the way we feel, they don’t voice their opinion,” Konen said.
Backing up Konen’s statement was the fact that many Bears fans who were interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times outside Soldier Field on Sunday shared similar feelings but did not want to share their names.
Konen’s wife, Dena, said she doesn’t support hardly anything President Donald Trump says, but agrees with him that players who protest the National Anthem should be suspended or fired, a stance the president voiced this week via Twitter.
“I have a nephew in the military, and there’s nothing more important than supporting the armed forces,” she said.
When asked about whether the right to protest a National Anthem is one of the rights her nephew fights for, Dena responded: “That’s tricky, my nephew, he says, that’s their right, but it’s my right to boycott the NFL, so he chooses not to watch anymore, and so I think we have to do that too … so I’m done.”
Jay Armant, a Steelers fan in town from Pittsburgh, said the protest is appropriate.
“I think what you saw was what the whole First Amendment in America is about,” said Armant, a software worker.
“People think it’s about disrespecting the flag, disrespecting the United States, it’s not about that, it’s about us coming together,” said Al Valentine, 59, a banker from Pittsburgh. “It’s no different than the civil rights movement. People are fighting for their rights, they want to be treated fairly. All this is about making people wake up to what’s going on in this country, there are discrepancies and we need to fix it.”
As for Trump: “He’s throwing fuel on every fire, that’s all he’s doing,” Valentine said.
Alex Branson, 35, who lives on the West Side and is the manager for a home improvement store, didn’t mince words about the controversy. “A lot of people lose their jobs. Trump won’t have his job after four years. That’s all. Give him his four years to talk his s—.”