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Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva Stands Alone for National Anthem

Nam Y. Huh

Nam Y. Huh

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On Sunday, September 24, the Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The singing of the national anthem has been a staple of professional sports in America for a long time. What was originally a Major League Baseball tradition, was adopted by the NFL during World War II. Both teams expected this procession to take place and made revisions to their respective pre-game preparations. Shortly after taking the field, the Chicago Bears linked arms and stood while the anthem was being played. This demonstration came on the heels of several other NFL athletes and teams protesting the anthem as well as President Trump’s remarks towards them, claiming it as being “very disrespectful to our country.” While the Bears stood arm-in-arm, while the anthem was being played, all but one of Pittsburgh’s team members remained in the tunnel.

Prior to becoming a professional football player, Alejandro Villanueva played collegiate football for the Army Black Knights. After his time in college, Villanueva served as an Army Ranger and was awarded a Bronze Star for his valor. Just after serving in Afghanistan, he signed with an NFL team. Villanueva has been a key contributor for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a left tackle. On Sunday, he was the only Steelers player visible during the national anthem. He stood outside the tunnel, where coach Mike Tomlinson and the rest of the players resided. The veteran stood with his hand over his heart, just like he has every other game he’s played in the National Football League. The Steelers tackle gained quite a bit of publicity over the decision to stand alone without his team in respect for the country, as it has unfolded in similar timing with other professional athletes also protesting during the anthem. Alejandro soon came forward after facing the attention from the media, saying the team had a meeting on Saturday before the game. He said that coach Tomlinson addressed the team saying that if they were to commit to any form of protest, it would have to attain 100% cooperation from the team. Alejandro also went on to add, “When I’ve got soldiers and wounded veterans texting me that I have to be out there, I think everything would have been put aside, from every one of my teammates, no doubt.” Villanueva went against the orders of his coach, to do what he believed was morally correct. Despite remaining in the tunnel, Ben Roethlisberger came to his teammates’ side saying, “I personally don’t believe the anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me… it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, both current and past, especially the ones that have made the ultimate sacrifice.” As for Villanueva, the rest of the team condemned his decision to go against the plan to remain in the tunnel. While acquiring the mass of attention this past Sunday, Alejandro Villanueva currently possesses the number one rank for jersey sales in the NFL.

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Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva Stands Alone for National Anthem