Wow: Steelers Coach Annoyed That Decorated Army Veteran Left Team to Stand for Anthem

Posted: Sep 25, 2017 10:35 AM
Wow: Steelers Coach Annoyed That Decorated Army Veteran Left Team to Stand for Anthem

Yesterday we told you about offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva's decision to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers' lockerroom in Chicago in order to stand, hand on heart, for the national anthem.  Villanueva is a decorated ex-Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for his valorous service.  With an emotional national debate swirling, his team had collectively decided not to enter the field of play until after the anthem was over, a move that head coach Mike Tomlin framed as an effort to side-step the politically-fraught controversy.  But Villanueva elected not to go along with that plan.  He walked down the tunnel and paid homage to the flag and anthem, all by himself.  In a post-game press conference after the Steelers lost to the Bears, Tomlin sounded unhappy with his offensive lineman:

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated Sunday night that he did not want offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva to stand for the national anthem, instead of sitting it out with the rest of his teammates...Tomlin said in a post-game press conference that he was looking for “100 percent participation” in whatever course of action the team took during the national anthem.  When asked by a reporter about Villanueva coming out for the anthem, Tomlin said, “Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team.”

Let me see if I've got this straight: Tomlin -- a Clinton donor and fundraiser -- is upset that Villanueva was not "respectful of our football team" because he decided to honor the country for which he's courageously risked his life by not snubbing the national anthem?  This is the display of 'disunity' that bothers Tomlin?  If anyone on that roster has earned the right to do what he did, it's Alejandro Villanueva.  Look, my views on this whole issue are fairly nuanced and conflicted, but I start to see red when kneeling through the anthem is celebrated as brave heroism, while a genuine American hero is isolated by his team and obliquely criticized by his coach for standing up for saluting the nation and flag he volunteered to serve.  That is infuriating.  Some people inside the NFL bubble seem to think they've won this battle:

The real division seems to be between the league and the sports media on one hand, and sports fans who finance the entire industry on the other -- the vast majority of whom side with Villanueva over the anthem sitters and kneelers whom they booed across the country yesterday.  The disconnect is striking and enormous.  (Incidentally, sales of the Army veteran's NFL jersey have reportedly "skyrocketed" since his one-man stand, which normally would have been unremarkable).  As I mentioned yesterday, setting aside the protesting players' disrespect and self-righteousness, as well as the president's demagogic excesses, the exhausting and relentless politicizing of our culture has become intensely aggravating to me as an American as a sports fan.  I repeated the point on Fox News last evening:

I'll leave you with this superb Wall Street Journal editorial on this situation, upon which I cannot improve: