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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Alejandro Villanueva’s jersey sales skyrocketed after he was the lone member of the Pittsburgh Steelers to stand for the national anthem before a game against the Chicago Bears this past September.
Now, the Pro Bowler and former Army Ranger is giving back.
Villanueva ranked 30th in the NFL in player sales and received a nice royalty check as a result. The 6-foot-9, 320-pound offensive tackle decided to donate the proceeds to various charities in Pittsburgh and the other three AFC North cities — Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland, according to USA Today.
Villanueva, who served three tours in Afghanistan and is a bronze star recipient, was the lone Steelers player to come out of the tunnel during the national anthem after the team elected to appear on the field. He said he never intended to become the champion of critics who deemed players that knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and social injustice as unpatriotic.
“Unfortunately, I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally,” Villanueva said in a press conference in September.
With the team electing to stay in the tunnel, Villanueva tried to move just far away enough from the tunnel to view the flag and stand for the anthem. He later said he didn’t intend to look like he was separating himself from his team.
According to the USA Today report, Villanueva sent at least 20 checks to school systems, police officers and first responders. He also donated to Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson’s charity and sent a $7,000 check to the Cleveland Browns for their foundation.