WATCH: Steelers Coach Suggests It Was Disrespectful For Alejandro Villanueva To Stand For Flag
Coach Tomlin Reacts To Alejandro Villanueva Leaving Locker Room
Chicago, IL – As the national anthem played at the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears NFL game on Sunday, one Steelers player ran to the end of the tunnel and stood, with helmet at his side, and right hand over his heart.
The rest of the Steelers players remained in the locker room refusing to come out for the national anthem.
Apparently Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t pleased with Alejandro Villanueva’s decision(video below.)
At a post-game press conference, he said that the protest wasn’t his decision but that he was “hoping for 100 percent participation in whatever course the team took”.
When asked about Villanueva coming out, Tomlin wasn’t happy.
“Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation. We are going to be respectful of our football team,” Tomlin said.
Villaneuva is a decorated Army veteran, and now an offensive tackle for the Steelers. In 2014, he told CBS News reporter Don Dahler why he joined the Army, and said, “I just couldn’t stand by the sidelines and watch other people do the work.”
He is a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan, and was awarded the Bronze Star for valor. Villaneuva played football in college at the United States Military Academy. He played with the Philadelphia Eagles before joining the Steelers.
A players-only meeting was held by the Steelers on Saturday night, September 23, to discuss options for response to the President’s comments, according to CBS News.
NFL players on other teams had been kneeling for the anthem at previous football games, while others stood prior to Sunday’s games, but many teams came together in a show of solidarity and either kneeled, stood with arms linked, or remained in the locker room.
The Steelers players were divided in their response to Villaneuva’s decision. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and several other players said that they supported Villaneuva’s decision. Cornerback Joe Haden said “as a team we’re behind him 100 percent.” Other Steelers players disagreed.
Coach Tomlin said “…we are not politicians, we’re coaches and professional athletes. If those of us or individuals choose to participate in politics in some way I’m going to be supportive of that, but when we come out of locker rooms we come out to play football games. To be quite honest with you, I didn’t appreciate our football team being dragged into politics this weekend.”
You can see the interview with coach Tomlin below: