Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, being “respectful of our football team” trumped the right of Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva to show respect for the national anthem.
A former Army Ranger, Villanueva was the only player from the team to break from the coach’s orders and come out of the tunnel Sunday in Chicago to stand for The Star Spangled Banner.
“Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team. 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. 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. 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.”
After the game, 23-17 loss to the Bears, Tomlin took a jab at the Bronze Star recipient’s decision, Fox News reports.
“Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team. We’re going to be respectful of our football team. Man, these are divisive times.” Tomlin said.
A former Army Ranger, Villanueva served three tours in Afghanistan, after which he received his commission and earned a Bronze Star with “V” device for his actions in the war zone. (The Bronze Star Medal with the “V” device to denote heroism is the fourth highest military decoration for valor.)
“We thought we were all in attention with the same agreement, obviously,” linebacker James Harrison told the website. “But, I guess we weren’t.”
Villanueva is the highest-profile military veteran in the league, having recently signed a new four-year contract and even earning some face time in the new “Call of Duty” video game. Other active players with military experience include New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona and Atlanta Falcon and former Air Force Falcon Ben Garland.
Villanueva has previously spoken out about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit and kneel during the national anthem, saying his actions may “send the wrong message.”
“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 in 2016.
He added: “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. You can’t do it by looking away from the people that are trying to protect our freedom and our country.”
I have watched social media blow up over this weekend’s pathetic “protests” by millionaires and it is amazing to see people defending these players and teams simply because they love the game. ZERO back bone.
AFF’s Huny Badger is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.