Steeler: "I'm not kneeling for the flag..."

Steeler: "I'm not kneeling for the flag..."

Prediction: Lots and lots of his teammates will have a problem with it. Remember what happened when Alejandro Villanueva simply got caught in the open during the anthem three years ago? His Pittsburgh Steeler teammates threw him under the bus for not getting out of sight, and after a brief spike in Villanueva jersey sales, the lineman ended up issuing a public apology.

Stephon Tuitt has decided to dispense with the whole apology approach up front. In fact, Tuitt invites anyone who objects to perform an unnatural act on themselves:

That’s a good explanation for his position, which will gain Tuitt … exactly nada. Villanueva’s status as a combat veteran didn’t get him a pass in 2017, when adoption of protests were not universally embraced by the league. In 2020, when the NFL is practically supplying spare kneelers from local Catholic churches, Tuitt’s grandmother won’t cut it this time around, either. Hall of Famer-to-be and super-community-leader Drew Brees tried offering love of country along with a heartfelt support of the good intentions of others kneeling, and he ended up offering two apologies and his wife added a third when his own teammates tore him to shreds in the media.

Tuitt is making it clear, however, that he’s not terribly concerned about reactions from teammates and fellow players. That’s one big difference between Tuitt and Villanueva back then and Brees now. Both wanted to keep their standing and reputation in the league, which made him vulnerable to pressure. If Tuitt’s serious about his screw-you approach, shaming efforts won’t work, even if LeBron James crosses over like he did with Brees.

Theoretically, anyway. Tuitt had better prepare himself for a constant stream of invective over this, at least in the short run. He won’t get the DeSean Jackson pass from his colleagues, mainly because he’s not offering the kind of anti-Semitism that is apparently much more acceptable than dissent from the activist Left in the NFL, and now from the NFL itself these days. If he’s not kneeling by Week Three, either Tuitt has a lot more spine than some of his other colleagues, or the NFL has canceled the season by that point. Kudos in the meantime, Mr. Tuitt, and to the screw-you strategy that might just work if more people adopted it in the face of the cancel culture.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on March 20, 2023