On Sunday the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers took a swipe at one of his players…..
Mike Tomlin the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers requested that during the National Anthem his players remain in the locker room so that no player is pressured to remain standing or kneel. However, one player did not.
His name is offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva and he is a former Army Ranger and Bronze Star recipient. Villanueva, who served three tours in Afghanistan, decided to stand his ground instead and placed his hand over his heart while the anthem played. Here’s what Tomlin said:
“Many of them felt like something needed to be done. I asked those guys to discuss it and whatever they discussed that we have 100 percent participation or we do nothing,” Tomlin said after the game. “They discussed it for an appropriate length of time and they couldn’t come to an understanding, so they chose to remove themselves from it. They were not going to be disrespectful in the anthem so they chose not to participate, but at the same time many of them were not going to accept the words of the president.”
“We’re not politicians. We’re coaches and professional athletes,” Tomlin said Sunday. “If those of us or individuals choose to participate in politics in some way I’m going to be supportive of that. But when we come out of locker rooms, we come out of locker rooms to play football games.”
“I was looking for 100 percent participation.”
You can watch his statement below. Due to NFL franchise video restrictions, we cannot download the video as our own and cut the clip. The coaches comments about his player are halfway through but, you can watch the entire reaction of the coach in context.
James Harrison who is a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers also was not pleased with his teammate and said:
“We thought we were all in attention with the same agreement. But, I guess we weren’t.”
In 2016 Villanueva told ESPN:
“I don’t know if the most effective way 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.”
Here’s the action that earned Villanueva a bronze star:
Villanueva’s unit was part of a quick reaction response force charged with protecting Afghan civilians. About two dozen soldiers pulled on night optical goggles and ran down a rocky road to an intersection where the mosque and a school were located, intending to kill or capture the remaining Taliban militants.
They found nothing. Surprised, Villanueva called an Afghan elder forward and asked where everyone went. As the elder began to explain, Villanueva and his troops were ambushed by as many as eight Taliban militants in a spray of bullets.
Spc. Martin Piggott was shot in the kneecap. Sgt. Roy Dutton was shot in the back of the leg. Army Pvt. 1st Class Jesse Dietrich was shot near the armpit.
Under heavy fire, Villanueva pulled the wounded Dietrich down an alley and into a second mosque, where a medic took over. Villanueva returned to fight, but when he came back to check on the injured soldiers, the medic told him they needed to move the wounded to a safer location. Carrying Piggott on his shoulders, Villanueva took the three to a nearby school, where they waited for a helicopter that would transport the wounded to the city of Kandahar.
“Help me, sir,” Dietrich cried to Villanueva.
“He was pretty scared,” Villanueva said. “He kept asking for help.”
By the time Villanueva lifted Dietrich onto the helicopter, his eyes were purple. He died a short time later.
“As the platoon leader, I feel responsible for everything my platoon does or fails to do,” Villanueva said. “I failed to keep Jesse Dietrich safe, and you know, it was just tough. … I keep thinking of other ways I would have done it, but it was a very tough mission and the enemy beat us that day. It was just a really bad night.”
Villanueva was later awarded the Bronze Star Medal for valor. He should be proud of the medal, but he is not, in part because Dietrich is dead.