Steelers coach on Villanueva: I hoped every player would respect the team's decision not to come out for the anthem

I’m going to guess that the West Point grad turned Army Ranger who did three tours in Afghanistan and received a Bronze Star before joining the NFL will *not* be disciplined for breaking team policy on observing the national anthem. Unless the Steelers want one of the worst PR fiascos in modern sports history.

Country over team:

“Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team,” 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 thought we were all in attention with the same agreement, obviously,” linebacker James Harrison told the website. “But, I guess we weren’t.”

I guess not. Local media asked Villanueva about Kaepernick’s protests last year, knowing he’s a veteran. You can watch his reaction here. Quote:

“I agree that America is not perfect. I agree that there are a lot of issues with minorities in this country. And I agree that we should do something about it. But I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down when the National Anthem of a country that has provided you freedom and is providing you $60 million a year is the best way to do it, when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan that are protecting our freedom for less than $20,000 a year. So, it’s his decision. Obviously he has brought up the issue in a great way, but I think if he encourages other players or other people in the stands to sit down, it’s going to send the wrong message. And I think he has to be a little more careful and look at the big picture of the things that he is doing, because as a service member, I have to understand it. I have to understand that. But he’s an athlete. He has a huge platform. He has to see the impact that he has on a lot of people’s lives. I don’t think it’s the most effective way.”…

“I will stand very proudly, and I will sing every single line in the National Anthem every single time I hear it,” said Villanueva. “I will stop whatever I am doing, because I recognize that I have to be very thankful to be in this country… I tell my teammates all the time, especially when they talk about contracts, I am one of the cheapest left tackles in the NFL. I always tell everybody, just by being an American, I’ve won three lotteries. If I have a little bit of money on top of that, then I’ve won three-and-a-half lotteries.”

Amazing that Trump hasn’t tweeted about him already, but the day is young. By the way, when I go to the NFL’s jersey store online, this is what greets me:

That’s not the “top sellers” list, to be clear. Marshawn Lynch (who sat during the anthem in preseason) is number one there while Villanueva is sixth. The image above is what I see when I first load the page. Apparently the NFL, for all its support for protesting players this weekend, isn’t above trying to cash in on jersey sales of the one player who defied the protests most ostentatiously.

By the way, the Steelers apparently didn’t stay in the locker room for the anthem. This photo shows them in the tunnel, just out of view of the field, some with hands on hearts while the anthem played. Why didn’t Villanueva observe the anthem while standing with them?