PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Steelers and Alejandro Villanueva have made headlines for what transpired during the national anthem prior to Sunday’s game in Chicago.
As a quick refresher, all of the Steelers’ players opted to stay in the tunnel for the national anthem. All of the players, except for former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who held his hand over his heart and sang along.
Steelers fans have been divided over the team’s decision ever since, but there is a positive angle.
In the aftermath, Villanueva’s jersey became the top-seller in the league. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Villanueva is donating all proceeds of his jersey sales to non-profits that benefit the military.
It is worth noting that Villanueva has always done this.
Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva is donating all proceeds on his jersey/apparel sales to USO and other military non-profits, as he always has.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 27, 2017
Earlier this week, Villanueva apologized for unintentionally throwing his teammates under the bus by not standing with them in the tunnel.
“I’ve made Coach Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only,” he said. “I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault, and my fault only. And I’ve made the Steelers also look bad, and that is my fault, and my fault only.”
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During his press conference, the former Army Ranger said he is absolutely okay if teammates kneel or sit during the national anthem.
“People that are taking a knee are not saying anything negative about the military, they’re not saying anything negative about the flag, they’re just trying to protest the fact that there are some injustices in America,” Villanueva said.
On Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin said there was no need for Villanueva to apologize.
“I don’t know why Villanueva was apologizing. He had nothing to apologize for. I guess he feels like he brought this upon us somehow and that’s a shame,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin also explained that the decision to stay in the tunnel was done in an effort to not make a political statement.
“We just decided that we were going to sit it out, that we weren’t going to play politics. We were going to come play the game,” Tomlin said. “The means of doing that was to stay in the tunnel and to not have a demonstration of any kind when the anthem was playing and then take the field and go play.
Earlier Tuesday, Steelers President Art Rooney II issued a letter to fans saying the decision was not intended to be a boycott of the national anthem.
“I want to reach out to you, the members of Steelers Nation, based on what I believe is a misperception about our players’ intentions in not taking the field for the National Anthem in Chicago. The intentions of Steelers players were to stay out of the business of making political statements by not taking the field. Unfortunately, that was interpreted as a boycott of the anthem – which was never our players’ intention.”
The Steelers will be back in action on Sunday, when they go on the road to face the Baltimore Ravens.