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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Former San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick achieved notoriety when he kneeled during the National Anthem, sparking others to do the same, but evoking protests from fans and many, including President Donald Trump, who saw the action as disrespectful of the U.S. military, veterans and the American flag.
“What had taken place two years ago should have been nipped in the bud,” said former Steeler Rocky Bleier on Tuesday.
A Purple Heart Vietnam veteran and Steelers’ Super Bowl star, Bleier said Kaepernick had the right to protest but not on the football field.
“The workplace is not the place to do that, and the stadium and the football game is a workplace for the players,” said Bleier.
Bleier says he blames the NFL commissioner and team owners for lack of leadership, and that, says Bleier, has led Nike to a business deal off the field.
“They got Nike, and they got a whole campaign resurrecting a player who started it all, and given him another new platform,” Bleier told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.
It’s Nike’s #JustDoIt campaign, now featuring Kaepernick, which has spurred calls to boycott Nike and even burn their shoes.
Bleier says Nike is free to cut whatever business deals they wish and risk the consequences.
U.S. Army Captain and Steelers lineman Alejandro Villaneuva served three tours in Afghanistan and stood for the anthem last season.
KDKA’s Jon Delano asked him for his reaction to Nike.
“If I’m going to be quoted on anything regarding the issue, it is the fact that I am solely focused and extremely appreciative of the units that are fighting overseas, men like Sgt. 1st Class Selas, who died in Afghanistan in July from my unit, men and women that believe in something and are sacrificing everything,” said Villaneuva.
As for any comments on Nike and Kaepernick, Villaneuva demurred.
“No, I prefer to stay on the positive and thank those men and women who are protecting my way of life,” he said.