Some NFL teams took offense to President Trump’s call for players to respect the flag and country, and chose to resist Trump by protesting the national anthem.
According to Fox News, the Pittsburgh Steelers opted to stay in their locker room during the national anthem out of protest, except for one veteran who chose to participate. Head Coach Mike Tomlin criticized the veteran, stating, “Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team.”
The protest came after a series of tweets from Trump criticizing NFL players who oppose the national anthem. “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect.… our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
Indignant, many players and coaches rallied together to oppose Trump by choosing not to participate in the national anthem. The Steelers chose to sit in the locker room during the anthem before their game against the Chicago Bears.
According to CBS Sports, Coach Tomlin felt the Steelers choosing to hide in the locker room during the national anthem would somehow be a show of unity, claiming that, “You know, these are very divisive times for our country and for us as a football team, it’s about us remaining solid. We’re not going to be divided by anything said by anyone… We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”
The Daily Caller reports that, while the Steelers chose to hide in the locker room, one player couldn’t show such disrespect to our country. Alejandro Villanueva, offensive tackle for the Steelers, emerged from the tunnel — standing tall — with a hand over his chest.
Villanueva is a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor. This brave man was likely conflicted by his team’s choice to show disrespect to the country he laid his life on the line for.
Ultimately, he decided he couldn’t hide in the shadows with his teammates.
According to ESPN, Villanueva had issues with the planned protest, telling fellow players that he didn’t want to stand out for participating in the anthem while they protested. The team settled on hiding in the locker room, though it seems Villanueva ultimately couldn’t support it.
Villanueva was sympathetic to Kaepernick’s and other player’s concerns of minority injustice, but criticized their lashing out at the national anthem, stating, “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.”
It’s apparent the Tomlin was irked by Villanueva showing unity to his country instead of the team. It will be interesting to see how liberals react to a player who puts his country before his team.
Conservatives, however, are grateful to Villanueva for his brave service in the military and the bravery he showed by standing for the flag when many in the NFL refused.