PITTSBURGH, PA (WCMH/AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger released a statement on his website Monday afternoon in response to the team staying in the tunnel Sunday during the National Anthem.
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.”
The Steelers held a players-only meeting Saturday night to discuss their options in the wake of Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire players who kneel for the national anthem. A handful of NFL players have refused to stand during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest several issues, including police brutality.
“Some guys wanted to take a knee, guys wanted to stand,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We said whatever we do we need to make sure we’re unified as one group because that’s what we’re about and that’s what this should be about is staying together as one unit and one group and one brotherhood, things like that.
But Villanueva, an Army veteran, stood outside for the anthem, holding his helmet by his side. Roethlisberger and several other players said they had no issue with Villanueva — “As a team, we’re behind him 100 percent,” cornerback Joe Haden said — but Tomlin said he was hoping for 100 percent participation while acknowledging the protest was not his decision.
Villanueva said Monday that the situation was “out of control” and he made his team “look bad.”
Both Roethlisberger and Cam Heyward met with the media Monday afternoon saying the team will be on the field for the Anthem for here on out. They also said there was no division with Alejandro Villanueva, saying it just appeared that way in pictures.