While the Pittsburgh Steelers football team remained hidden while the national anthem was played Sunday in Chicago, one lone player — offensive lineman and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva — ventured out and stood respectfully during the playing of the anthem.
Villanueva’s honorable action on a day of mass disrespect caught the nation’s attention — his jersey rocketed up the top-selling list — and he was heralded as a true American hero … and then he apologized for his actions the following day, according to KDKA.
“Unfortunately, I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally,” he stated in a press conference, and proceeded to explain the miscommunications that resulted in him being the lone member of the Steelers in view while the anthem played.
“I’ve made Coach Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only,” he added in his apology. “I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault, and my fault only. And I’ve made the Steelers also look bad, and that is my fault, and my fault only.”
However, while Villanueva may feel remorseful for making the rest of his organization look bad, a veteran and writer for the Independent Journal Review respectfully begged to differ with the former Ranger and Bronze Star recipient, and insisted that the Steelers made both him and themselves look bad without any additional help.
Virginia Kruta understood where Villanueva was coming from with his apology, but wrote, “Alejandro Villanueva did not make his teammates look bad. They made him look bad.”
Kruta explained how Villanueva’s actions exemplified the core Army Values that are ingrained in every soldier in boot camp, those values being: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage — or, in acronym form, as the military is so very fond of, LDRSHIP.
“He displayed loyalty, duty, and respect — to his country, to the men and women with whom he served, and to flag that stands for everything he signed up to fight for,” she wrote. “Selfless service — by standing when he knew that the popular thing, the thing that would likely earn him praise from the rest of his team, was to sit it out.”
“Honor, integrity, and personal courage — in doing what his heart told him was right even if no one else was willing to stand with him,” added Kruta.
Villanueva has been with the Steelers since 2015, and had spoken out previously in opposition to the disrespectful mode of protest during the national anthem, though he in principle agreed with the fundamental underlying reasoning for the protests.
As such, his teammates should have been well aware of his military history and obvious stance in regard to honoring the American flag, the national anthem and the men and women who died defending them.
He should feel no shame or pressure from them or anyone else for standing up and doing the right thing — or, to put it in terms the protesters and their supporters may understand, he was simply expressing his personal beliefs through his right to free speech, as they claim to be doing, even if some find it disagreeable, disrespectful or disruptive to their “unity.”
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