NFL teams around the league waged protests during the national anthem Sunday in response to incendiary remarks from President Trump, who said this at a rally on Friday night: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”Some players knelt during the anthem, others stood with arms locked, while others, like the Steelers, remained in the locker room during the anthem.
Here’s how Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisbergerexplained the decision after the team’s overtime loss in Chicago.
“By no means, by no way shape or form, was there any disrespect intended towards our troops and those who serve this country,” he said, via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler. “We all have the utmost respect for them, obviously. They give us the freedom to play this game.
“Last night, obviously, with all the issues going on if you will, we had a players-only meeting after the team meeting … we decided we were going to talk about what we were going to do because we knew some guys wanted to take a knee, guys wanted to stand. We said whatever we do, we need to make sure we are unified as one group because that is what we are about and that is what it should be about. Staying together as one unit, one group, one brotherhood, things like that.
“So rather than having one guy kneel, one guy stand, the conclusion was made by everybody that the best thing to do was to stay in the locker room (or in the tunnel, if you will) and show respect that way.”
One Steelers player wasn’t in the locker room during the anthem; starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who was an Army Ranger before joining the NFL, stood just outside the player’s tunnel at Soldier Field.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin weighed in on the matter before the game.
“You know, these are very divisive times for our country and for us as a football team it’s about us remaining solid. We’re not going to be divided by anything said by anyone,” Tomlin told CBS Sports’ Jamie Erdahl. … “[I told our players] if you feel the need to do anything I’m going to be supportive of that — as Americans you have that right. But whatever we do we’re going to do 100 percent, we’re going to do together. We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”
On Saturday, Steelers president Art Rooney II issued this statement:
“I believe the commissioner made an appropriate statement and I have nothing to add at this time.”
And here are Roger Goodell’s remarks from earlier Saturday:
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
The Steelers were one of three teams — along with the Seahawks and Titans — to stay in the locker room during the anthem.