Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger posted a message on his website Monday about the team’s decision to wait in the tunnel for the National Anthem during Sunday’s game in Chicago. Roethlisberger wrote that the gesture was supposed to be about unity but that he wished it had been approached differently.
“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,” he wrote. “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,” he emphasized. “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,” he added. “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.”
Steelers player and retired Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva stood alone outside the tunnel for the Anthem – something Roethlisberger clarified was never meant to happen.
“We never want to leave one man behind," Steeler defensive end Cam Heyward said in a press conference with Roethlisberger. "I know it looked like that in the picture and we wanted to make sure we reached out to Al personally. We didn't want him to ever feel like we didn't have his back.”
Various NFL teams staged protests Sunday after President Trump tweeted that the NFL should fire players who knelt for the National Anthem as a form of protest. One hundred and fifty players total knelt during the Anthem. Refusing to stand during the Anthem is not a popular form of protest among many of the NFL's viewers, a recent study found that 34 percent of Americans are less likely to watch NFL games due to the protests.