CHICAGO – A former Army Ranger was chided by his coach for standing during the national anthem while the rest of his team remained in the tunnel.
Are the protests damaging the NFL?
In a speech Friday, President Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say, `Get that son of a bitch off the field right now! Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!“
His comments galvanized the league against him as every team developed a form of anti-Trump protest. Yet the problem was each one involved disrespecting the national anthem.
However, former Ranger, and current Pittsburgh Steeler, Alejandro Villanueva, showed respect. While his teammates chose to remain in the tunnel beneath the stands, he did not. He went to the field and respectfully stood for the anthem with his hand over his heart. And now he is being called out by his coach.
For Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, being “respectful of our football team” trumped the right of his offensive tackle to show respect for the national anthem, reported Fox News.
The former Army Ranger was the only Steeler to break from the team’s orders and come out of the tunnel Sunday in Chicago to stand for The Star Spangled Banner.
Speaking after his team’s 23-17 loss to the Bears, Tomlin appeared to take a swipe at the Bronze Star recipient’s decision.
“Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team,” Tomlin said.
That’s funny. When individuals began to follow Colin Kaepernick’s lead by kneeling or sitting while the national anthem was played, the conversation revolved around their “rights.” But the silly charade is now a huge distraction to players, the league, and certainly patriotic viewers.
Tomlin told the media prior to kickoff Sunday that the Steelers held a team meeting and decided to not come out of the locker room for the national anthem. Tomlin added the intent was to have his team focus on the game and not President Trump’s comments blasting players who chose to protest during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner.
“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 after the game. “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.”
Nice leadership Coach Tomlin and the rest of the league. You’re upset with the president’s comments so let’s disrespect our country. … Class act!
Villanueva, who served three tours in Afghanistan, decided to stand his ground instead and placed his hand over his heart while the anthem played.
“We’re not politicians. We’re coaches and professional athletes,” Tomlin said Sunday. “If those of us or individuals choose to participate in politics in some way I’m going to be supportive of that. But when we come out of locker rooms, we come out of locker rooms to play football games.”
There appeared to be some confusion in the Steelers locker room after Villanueva came out of the tunnel for the anthem.
“We thought we were all in attention with the same agreement, obviously,” linebacker James Harrison told Penn Live. “But, I guess we weren’t.”
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….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
…our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
Offensive tackle Chris Hubbard, however, told the newspaper that everyone in the locker room accepted that Villanueva would be exempt from the team’s decision.
“Al was cool with it, with whatever we went through. He was on board. That’s Al, man,” Hubbard said. “He’s a good guy.”
Villanueva has previously spoken out about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to 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.”
Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe also told the sports broadcaster that he would be standing during the national anthem Sunday because he wanted to be “paying tribute to the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom.
“I stand because I respect the men who died in real battle so I have the freedom to battle on the field… but everyone these days likes to find a reason to protest and that’s their right,” Wolfe told ESPN, according to The Washington Post.
Members of the Jacksonville Jaguars knelt for the playing of the national anthem during Sunday’s game in London against the Baltimore Ravens, reported Sports Illustrated.
Players from both teams stood during the playing of “God Save the Queen” with team members linking arms during the song. Jaguars owner Shad Khan linked arms with Jaguars tight end linebacker Telvin Smith.
This trend has had a spillover effect in other sports. There have been NBA superstars supporting the response by NFL players. And now we have a player kneeling in Major League Baseball, reported SFGate.
A’s rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell, who earlier in the day profanely bashed President Trump on Instagram, became the first major-league player to kneel during the national anthem on Saturday before Oakland’s 1-0 win at the Coliseum.
“My decision had been coming for a long time,” Maxwell said, citing his own experiences with racism while growing up in Huntsville, Ala., which is where Trump on Friday made disparaging comments about NFL players who choose to kneel for the anthem. “The only way we can come together is by informing. … To single out NFL players for doing this isn’t something we should be doing — I felt it should be a little more broad.”
Maxwell plans to continue kneeling for the anthem.
Twitter was filled with pictures of Villanueva’s actions Sunday.
— crosbycat (@1crosbycat) September 24, 2017
— Nick (@NMQ90) September 24, 2017
We don’t know where this is going, but it’ not productive. And it’s lessoning the appetite for sports.
(Photo: Screenshot CBS broadcast)
Editors note: Since this article was posted, the sales of Villanueva’s jersey has skyrocketed. He currently has the #1 selling jersey on the NFL’s web store, ahead of top players including Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr, reported Fox News.