Pittsburgh Steelers’ Villanueva ‘Embarrassed’ by Standing Alone Without Team

Steelers had decided as team not to take field during national anthem in Sunday's game versus the Bears.

National Anthem protest in the NFL
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva (78) stands outside the tunnel alone during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

During this past Sunday’s spate of NFL protests following criticism by President Trump, one protest has gotten more e-ink than the rest. The Pittsburgh Steelers decided as a team not to take the field during the playing of the national anthem—that is, except for a single player standing near the mouth of the tunnel: left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a West Point graduate and former Army ranger.

Right-leaning media soon picked up on Villanueva’s apparent defiance of his team’s stance, and his jerseys started flying off the shelves.

In fact, as Villanueva told reporters, he had been inadvertently separated from his teammates and was hoping to be able to honor the flag in a part of the tunnel where he wasn’t visible.

Although Villanueva was one of the first players to take offense to Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem, he explained to The New York Times that “Nobody thinks that when you’re taking a knee, you’re offending the flag.” On the other side of the coin, he also said that “I don’t think anyone standing for the flag is not respecting the fact that there is a lot of injustices and racial divide in our country.”

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that the team made the decision not to take the field during the anthem at a players-only team meeting on Saturday night. Roethlisberger, however, has since published a post on his website saying that he regrets the decision.

And what about Villanueva’s act of patriotic defiance? “Unfortunately, I threw [the Steelers] under the bus unintentionally,” he told the Times. “Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed.”

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