Yesterday, Mike Tomlin said that the Pittsburgh Steelers would remain in the locker room during the national anthem, and not be on the sideline. They did, with the exception of Alejandro Villanueva, a former Ranger who plays offensive line, who could be seen on the telecast standing outside the tunnel alone with his hand over his heart. In the wake of his coming out alone and away from his team, Villanueva has become a popular figure and his jersey sales skyrocketed.
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. 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. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting.
As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.
I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality. 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. God bless those men and women.
After Roethlisberger said “I wish we approached it differently” in his statement, he also came out directly and said the team would be on the sideline next week.
In a report from the night before, Ben was quoted as saying during the player’s meeting that “We said what we do, we need to make sure we are unified as one group because that is what we are about and that is what it should be about.”
The Steelers operated under a team concept on what was a very individual choice. If you believe in the freedom of expression, then that means accepting different viewpoints and backgrounds. In fact, what is often failing is a lack of empathy or being able to put one’s self in the shoes of another.
But in trying to force the team concept on this, the Pittsburgh Steelers now have to repair the team. If teammates had different personal views, it would have been better to show those differences while accepting the choices of each teammate individually, rather than trying to present a united front on this issue, and not acknowledging the natural divisions between teammates united in a cause.