Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been, shall we say, less than supportive of the team’s decision (minus Alejandro Villanueva) to stay in the locker room during the national anthem in Chicago Sunday, with many burning their team jerseys and other attire in response.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said the move was an effort to stay out of politics, "not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but to remove ourselves from the circumstance.” Yet many viewed it as a protest of the anthem nonetheless.
Now, Steelers president Art Rooney II is attempting to rein in the PR nightmare.
In a desperate letter to fans Tuesday, Rooney doubled down Tomlin’s explanation for why the team did not come out of the locker room for the national anthem, assuring them the players were not protesting The Star-Spangled Banner.
“I want to reach out to you, the members of Steelers Nation, based on what I believe is a misperception about our players’ intentions in not taking the field for the National Anthem in Chicago,” he said. “ The intentions of Steelers players were to stay out of the business of making political statements by not taking the field. Unfortunately, that was interpreted as a boycott of the anthem – which was never our players’ intention.”
He said the team members come from diverse backgrounds and are all active in their community.
As for the perceived diss to America's men and women in uniform, Rooney said his players “have tremendous respect for the members of our military services, including their teammate Alejandro Villanueva.”
Rooney went on to argue that Steelers team members just want to focus on playing football.
Going forward, "the main thing we can do is learn from this and strive to come together remaining unified as a football team. I believe we are capable of accomplishing this with the support of our fans," he said.
What do you think? Will Rooney's letter have much of an affect on the anger Steelers fans are feeling?