While everyone’s gaze remained focused on happenings within the NFL, something even more serious was taking place in Pittsburgh.
Basically, the Steelers team was instructed to keep seated in their locker rooms, under direct instructions by coach Mike Tomlin. The very same was announced earlier by the coach himself. As you know, the reason for this was to completely boycott the national anthem.
“We’re not participating in the anthem today,” he said. “Not to be disrespectful to the anthem. To remove ourselves from this circumstance. … That’s our decision. We’re going to be 100 percent.”
However, not everyone needs a master of puppet- that is why Steeler Alejandro Villanueva stepped out on the field alone, supporting America’s greatest symbol alongside the flag.
Alejandro Villanueva was the only Steeler to come out for the National Anthem, standing in the tunnel. pic.twitter.com/L4EtxRQSvA
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 24, 2017
Tomlin left the game fuming, stating, “I was looking for 100 percent participation. We were gonna be respectful of our football team.”
Villanueva was forced to apologize later on, looking as if he was the one betraying his team:
“Unfortunately I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally. … I made coach Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault, and my fault only,” he said.
As a result, Pittsburgh fans came swinging at the team as well as at Villanueva, since it appeared he was pushed to apologize in order for him to keep his job. Then, the jersey torching began, as fans parted ways with their favorite team.
Steelers President Art Rooney II noted they suffered a “misperception” on why the team remained in their locker room as the anthem was playing.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 26, 2017
“The intentions of Steelers players were to stay out of the business of making political statements by not taking the field,” Rooney said. “Unfortunately, that was interpreted as a boycott of the anthem — which was never our players’ intention.”
“Yesterday, I received an email from a Steelers fan who said tell the players to just play football. That is exactly what they wanted to do. They wanted their sole focus to be on playing the game, while also coming together as a unified team.
“The main thing we can do is learn from this and strive to come together remaining unified as a football team,” he continued.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger later wrote he was “unable to sleep” Sunday night, thinking his team should have “approached” the matter “differently.”
“Moving forward I hope standing for the Anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe,” Roethlisberger said. “God bless those men and women.”
The Steelers promised to show up on the field during the anthem in time for NFL’s week 4. Whether they’ll stand or kneel is still uncertain.
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