Alejandro Villanueva was lauded today for standing up during the national anthem while his less patriotic Pittsburgh teammates all refused to honor it, electing to stay off the field instead. However, Villanueva has now apologized for his show of respect for America. He claims it was the result of a misunderstanding of what the team was going to do. You can read his explanation here.
Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed.
I made coach Tomlin look bad, and that is fault and my fault only. I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault…only.
I wonder whether Villanueva was pressured by his coach to make these statements.
It’s funny how team unity is turning into a one way street when it comes to anthem protests. When it was just one or two players refusing to stand for the national anthem while the rest of the team stood, that almost universally considered fine by coaches and owners. Few demanded that teams act in unison. Team unity meant backing the dissidents right to take a knee.
But now, coaches like Tomlin expect every player to disrespect the national anthem. Anyone who doesn’t is making him and the rest of the team look bad.
Today, I heard former NFL player Tiki Barber say, gloatingly, that these mass pre-game protests (of whatever) are here to stay. “Get used to it,” he instructed us.
Barber may be right. But players and coaches like Tomlin better get used to being hated and reviled by a goodly portion of America and a goodly portion of the NFL’s fan base.
NOTE: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that the Steelers knelt down during the anthem.