Today, on the day in which much of the NFL is disgracing itself by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem (during what is being called #TakeAKnee Day), one NFL player, Alejandro Villanueva has shown that you don’t have to play for New England to be a patriot.
Alejandro Villanueva was the only Steeler to come out for the National Anthem, standing in the tunnel. pic.twitter.com/L4EtxRQSvA
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 24, 2017
As reported by the Daily Caller:
Villanueva played in college at West Point Military Academy, before going on to become an Army Ranger. He was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 before eventually joining the Steelers. An NFL.com article earlier this year said that Villanueva first caught Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s eye “because of the way he stood during the national anthem.”
In other words, although he stood near the tunnel rather than on the sidelines, Mr. Villanueva, with his action, has announced that he is not the sort to kneel to dishonor a country for which so many have died, and for which he has risked his life to protect.
The reaction on Twitter from those who love the U.S. and appreciate their citizenship to this great country has been overwhelmingly positive:
Pittsburgh @Steeler Alejandro Villanueva standing in honor of his country while the NFL continues to dishonor it makes him a hero in my eyes
— AACONS (@AACONS) September 24, 2017
This man is a true hero. Thank you for your service, Alejandro Villanueva. pic.twitter.com/R9led9NeBz
— Eryn McCabe 🌼 (@Eryn_NotErin) September 24, 2017
In fairness to the Steelers it should be noted that it was not their intent to dishonor the flag. Rather their plan was to not “force” their players to honor it.
As the anthem began in Soldier Field, several Steelers coaches were on the sideline, including head coach Mike Tomlin, while the players were not present.
Players took the field within a few seconds of the anthem’s end, just after fireworks launched, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger one of the first players out of the tunnel.
“We’re not going to play politics,” Tomlin told CBS’ Jamie Erdahl before the game. “We’re football players, we’re football coaches. We’re not participating in the anthem today — not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but to remove ourselves from the circumstance.
“People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his teammate who chooses not to.”
However, Alejandro Villanueva made clear that given the choice to honor the flag or to hide in the locker room; to show his love for the U.S. or to kneel to disgrace it; is an easy one.
And as a former Army Ranger, it was a choice he made long before he put on a Pittsburgh Steeler uniform.