After Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva made headlines for being the only member of his team visible during the playing of the national anthem prior to a game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, his jersey became the top seller in the league.
But Villanueva is not going to keep the money.
Instead, he is planning to donate all of the proceeds from his jersey and apparel sales to the United Service Organizations Inc., as well as several other nonprofit military groups.
According to ESPN reporter Adam Schefter, this is a regular practice for Villanueva.
Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva is donating all proceeds on his jersey/apparel sales to USO and other military non-profits, as he always has.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 27, 2017
Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan, stood on the field Sunday during the anthem with his hand placed over his heart.
Alejandro Villanueva, a US Army Captain, Army Ranger, & Bronze Star Recipient, refused to stay in the locker room for the national anthem pic.twitter.com/ipl9Dw6XNI
— DemExit Abolitionist (@jetrotter) September 24, 2017
The entire Steelers team had remained in the tunnel during the anthem, two days after President Donald Trump delivered critical remarks against players who kneel during the anthem.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t appear to support Villanueva’s decision, instead saying he was under the impression the entire team had decided to stay in the tunnel.
“Many of them felt like something needed to be done. I asked those guys to discuss it and whatever they discussed that we have 100 percent participation or we do nothing,” Tomlin said.
“They discussed it for an appropriate length of time and they couldn’t come to an understanding, so they chose to remove themselves from it,” he added. “They were not going to be disrespectful in the anthem so they chose not to participate, but at the same time many of them were not going to accept the words of the president.”
But Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wrote on his personal website Monday that he had “troubling sleeping” after the events of Sunday.
“I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the National Anthem yesterday,” Roethlisberger said. “The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently.”
Villanueva spoke publicly in 2016 about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem.
“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.
“I will be the first one to hold hands with Colin Kaepernick and do something about the way minorities are being treated in the United States, the injustice that is happening with police brutality, the justice system, inequalities in pay,” he said. “You can’t do it by looking away from the people that are trying to protect our freedom and our country.”
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