Steelers, 200-Plus NFL Players Participate In National Anthem Protest

Bill Cowher: 'We Can Be Unified, But Still Think Differently'

Follow KDKA-TV: Facebook | Twitter

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s the latest in the feud between President Donald Trump and the NFL.

President Donald Trump called on NFL team owners to fire any players who refused to stand during the national anthem.

In response, more than 200 players across the NFL opted to either sit out, kneel or stand locked in arms with teammates in solidarity during the national anthem.

Every single player of the Steelers remained in the locker room/tunnel during the national anthem, except for one.

Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, stood near the tunnel and sang along.

“We never want to take anything away from him. We never want to turn our back on our military. But, it was a stand made by multiple teams and we all want to stay together,” Cam Heyward said.

KDKA’s John Shumway Reports —

MORE COVERAGE:

With all the extra focus on Sunday’s protests, some are concerned that the message behind Colin Kaepernick’s original stand against police brutality is getting lost in the shuffle.

Today, President Trump tweeted that the protests have nothing to do with race and that it’s about respect for our country, flag and national anthem.

He also added that the NFL must respect this.

Meanwhile after the overtime loss to the Bears, there were many questions for the Steelers about their pre-game decision.

“The stuff that’s gone on the last 48 hours is not football. That’s what I say. We as a people have to deaden that. We have to make that a non-factor. It wasn’t a factor when we were out there when we were playing football, and we gotta keep it that way,” Ramon Foster said.

“We know some guys wanted to take a knee, guys wanted to stand, we said whatever we do we need to be unified as one group,” Ben Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger later released a full statement on his website Monday afternoon.

It reads:

“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.”

Roethlisberger told reporters Monday afternoon that the Steelers plan to be on the field for the anthem next Sunday.

“It’s hard. It’s a very divisive thing right now, and I think everyone understands both sides. I just wish we could use something else other than the national anthem, but it’s an important issue on both sides. It’s just tough to try to put something together and that’s kind of the best option we had,” David DeCastro said.

Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher and former quarterback Terry Bradshaw also weighed in during Sunday afternoon’s games.

“While I don’t condone the protest during our national anthem, this is America. If our country stands for anything, folks, it’s what? It’s freedom. People died for that freedom. Now, I’m not sure our president understands those rights. But every American has the right to speak out and also to protest. Believe me, these athletes do love this great country of ours,” Bradshaw said.

KDKA’s Bob Pompeani Reports —

Cowher said respecting each other’s different points of view is most important.

“I think the one thing you look at in the locker room… there has to be respect in the locker room because everybody has different viewpoints, and I can’t tell you how you should feel,” he said. “If a player were to come up to me and say, ‘Coach, you say we’re a family and we’re unified, would you kneel with me today for the national anthem?’ I would say, ‘I don’t because to me, that flag and the national anthem, it means a lot to me, but I respect your viewpoint, and if you kneeled next to me, I would put my hand on your shoulder.’ We can be unified, but still think differently.”

Coach Mike Tomlin called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before the game and told him what his team was going to do — even though he clearly wants the focus to be on football.

“We have group of men come from different social-economic background, different races, religions and so forth. That’s football. That’s a lot of team sports, but because of our position we get dragged into this [expletive] to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said.

Hours after the game, people are asking the players about what will happen during next week’s national anthem.

“I don’t know. You know, we will talk about it as a team, and anything that we do, we will do it together. We’ll figure it out,” Joe Haden said.

This morning, the NFL announced they will not discipline the players who refused to participate in the national anthem.

More From CBS Pittsburgh

Get The All New CBS Local App
KDKA Weather App
Find Cheaper Gas

Watch & Listen LIVE