One NFL Player Stands Out Among the Kneelers… Then Apologizes

Could you believe the incredible amount of action on NFL fields last weekend? I’m sure we’ll see much more of the same today in what is turning out to be a very interesting season.

No, I’m not talking about passes and runs, touchdowns and tackles or field goals and safeties. They all pale in comparison to what happened just prior to the opening kickoff last weekend.

That’s when many NFL players knelt down on the sidelines during the National Anthem. Some even stayed in their locker rooms to protest racial inequality in America.

Even many of the players who decided to stand during the National Anthem locked arms. They wanted to show unity with those who have chosen this particular forum to protest.

Bosses Side with Employees

President Donald Trump was hoping that NFL executives and coaches would speak out against these protests. He made it very clear what he would do if he were an NFL owner.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now?’” Trump told an audience in Alabama.

“You know, some owner… is going to say, ‘That guy who disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’” Trump also encouraged football fans to leave stadiums. He wanted people to counter protest the players who knelt during the National Anthem.

But regardless of how they feel about this subject, many NFL team and league officials verbally supported the players. They think it’s their right to protest in this manner.

One of those NFL owners, Shahid Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, even stood with them. He locked arms with his players on the sidelines last weekend in a show of solidarity. Khan had donated funds to President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who once called Trump a very good friend, said he supports his players’ rights “to peacefully (effect) social change.”

Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell disagreed with Trump. He said that Trump’s remarks about players who knelt during the National Anthem were “divisive” and show an “unfortunate lack of respect.”

One Man Chooses to Stand Alone

Not every NFL player knelt down, locked arms with other players or stayed in a locker room while the National Anthem played last weekend. Many stood up as individuals like they always do.

But one in particular stood in the face of adversity. It was the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva. He defied his team’s vote. He didn’t stay in the locker room during the National Anthem at Soldier Field in Chicago last Sunday.

It seemed that he was not comfortable remaining indoors while the Star-Spangled Banner played outside the locker room. He stood in plain sight in the tunnel leading to the field and held his right hand over his heart as the Anthem played.

The Steelers head coached commented on Villanueva after the game. He said he had expected all his players to act in the same manner after voting on the issue. “I was looking for 100 percent participation. We were going to be respectful of our football team.”

Villanueva Reconsiders His Decision

Villanueva received considerable praise from the public for his stance. He even saw sales of his replica football jersey skyrocket. But the next day, he issued what amounted to an apology for his actions.

“I’ve made Coach Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault, and that is my fault only,” Villanueva said. “I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault, and my fault only. And I made the Steelers look bad, and that is my fault, and my fault only. So, unwillingly, I made a mistake.”

His statement came as a surprise to many. Villanueva had served three tours of duty in Afghanistan. He also earned the Bronze Star after playing his college football at West Point. He had this to say about the subject during an ESPN interview last year:

“I don’t know if the most effective way (to protest) is to sit down during the National Anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year… when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year.”

How Do You Feel About It?

I’d love to know what you think about this situation. Should professional athletes stand during the National Anthem? What did you think about Villanueva and his choice to stand last Sunday? How do you feel about his apology the next day? Hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts. Leave a comment below and let us know!

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