The Pittsburgh Steelers — opted not to participate in the national anthem prior to Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters before Sunday’s game in Chicago against the Bears that his team wouldn’t be participating in the anthem because
“(It’s) not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but it’s to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate for the anthem, he shouldn’t have to be forced to choose sides,” Tomlin told CBS.
While the rest of his teammates remained in the locker room,Former Army Ranger Villanueva stood in the tunnel holding his helmet in his left hand and holding his right hand over his heart as the anthem played.Villaneuva played in college at West Point Military Academy before going on to become an Army Ranger. He was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 before eventually joining the Steelers. Several Steelers coaches, including head coach Mike Tomlin, stood on the Pittsburgh sideline at attention during the anthem while the Bears stood arm in arm on their side of the field.
Villanueva played football at Army and served as an Army Ranger before entering the NFL. Last season, he made comments critical of San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick, whose anthem protest touched off other anthem protests around the league.
“I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year … when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year,” Villanueva told ESPN. “It’s his decision. Obviously he has brought up the issue in a great way. But I think if he encourages other players or other people in the stands to sit down, it’s going to send the wrong message.
After President Trump made comments over the weekend that players should be “suspended or fired” for protesting the national anthem, the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to sit out the national anthem.
A large number of Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens players knelt during the national anthem during their game in London on Sunday, but remained standing during God Save The Queen.
OL Alejandro Villanueva out in the tunnel standing alone for the national anthem. pic.twitter.com/fv2j06zRNL
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) September 24, 2017
After calling out NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday for his response to the comments, Trump said on Twitter Sunday that players who protested should be fined or suspended.
God bless Villanueva and his commitment to our nation!