PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers will be on the field during the national anthem in next weekend’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Every Steeler but left tackle Alejandro Villanueva remained in a tunnel while the anthem played before a loss in Chicago on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger says the team asked Villanueva to join the other captains at the front of the line before kickoff and a miscommunication led to Villanueva, a West Point graduate and Army veteran, being left alone by the field.
Defensive end Cam Heyward says the Steelers never wanted Villanueva to feel like his teammates don’t have his back. Heyward says Villanueva was shocked by the picture of him standing alone.
Roethlisberger says the team hasn’t decided yet whether players will stand or kneel during the anthem in Baltimore but that he wished his team had approached the situation differently.
He released this statement today about Sunday’s pre-game decision:
I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the National Anthem yesterday. The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting.
As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.
I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality. Moving forward, I hope standing for the Anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe. God bless those men and women.