Alejandro Villanueva became the face of resistance to the #Resistance on Sunday when the former Army Ranger became the lone Pittsburgh Steeler to show up, much less stand with his hand over his heart, for the national anthem.
But sadly, given the fact that Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin expected “100 percent participation” in the team’s decision to skip the anthem entirely rather than have some kneel and some stand, Villaneuva’s decision to not throw his country under the bus unexpectedly led to the perception that he was throwing his own team under the bus instead.
Villaneuva came under harsh criticism for his stand from his coach and even from Fox Sports pundits Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless, among others. Sharpe called his decision “wrong,” a case of “forget what you guys said, this is what I’m going to do” when the team clearly decided to do something else.
The Steelers offensive tackle gave a news conference on Monday to clarify what happened the day before, and it wasn’t entirely as black-and-white as either side would like to see it.
— SteelersKB 🧬 (@SteelersKillerB) September 25, 2017
In truth, Villanueva “never intended to stand alone during the national anthem on Sunday,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed,” Villanueva said during the news conference. “We butchered our plan.”
What was the plan? According to the Post-Gazette:
Villanueva, an Army Ranger who was deployed in Afghanistan, said he asked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the team’s leaders to amend their original idea, agreed upon after a Saturday night team meeting, which was to stand in the locker room during the anthem in an attempted show of unity. Part of the reason Villanueva pushed for change: he’d received texts from wounded veterans asking him to stand for the anthem.
Villanueva’s suggestion, he said, was to stand with Roethlisberger and the team’s other captains at the front of the tunnel. That didn’t work out due to, as Roethlisberger said, pregame “chaos” in a small area, and Villanueva was left to stand alone with his teammates about 20 feet behind him.
“The crazy thing about that is, when we came out of the tunnel, we told Al to come stand up front with the captains. Cam, myself and [Tyler Matakevich],” Roethlisberger said.
“When we came out of the locker room into that tunnel, it was a very small area. There was a flag or something coming off the field so there were a bunch of Bears fans, coming off the field holding that [and] going in front of us, so it kind of held us up.”
What happened was what the nation saw that day, a lone Villanueva seeming to respect his country while the rest of the team cowered in the tunnel. In truth, it was more complicated than that.
“How would you feel if you were somebody who really wants to go out there and stand for the national anthem, and you didn’t know that there was a player that was going to stand in the tunnel from a [better] vantage point? I would be really [mad],” said Villanueva. “They’re getting negative feedback because they didn’t stand up for the national anthem when in reality, they would’ve done it. They were fighting to stand up for the national anthem.”
Villanueva also made it clear he doesn’t take offense at players who choose to take a knee, saying vets like him “actually signed up and fought so that somebody could take a knee and protest peacefully whatever it is that their hearts desire.”
Then, he apologized to his team:
“I made coach Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only,” said Villanueva. “I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only. When everybody sees an image of me standing by myself, everybody thinks that the team and Steelers are not behind me, and that’s absolutely wrong. It’s quite the opposite. Actually, the entire team would’ve been out there with me, even the ones that wanted to take a knee.”
From the perspective of us ‘normals’ who are fed up with pampered millionaires dissing our flag, Villanueva’s apology is sad, even if we know it was forced. But from the perspective of a teammate who wanted to honor his country yet still stay loyal to his team, it’s easy to see the dilemma.
Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.
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