The Pittsburgh Steelers responded to the Donald Trump/NFL controversy by ducking it completely. The team stayed in the locker room during the National Anthem.
However, not every Steeler stayed put.
One player, Alejandro Villanueva, a decorated former Army Ranger, emerged from the locker room for the National Anthem, standing, hand over his heart.
Fox News reported of Villanueva that “the 6’9” former Army Ranger, one of the NFL’s tallest players, stood outside with his hand over his heart for the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ before the game against the Chicago Bears.”
Here’s video of the moment:
According to Fox, “Villanueva, 29, played college football at West Point, graduating with a degree in systems engineering, according to the Philadelphia Eagles, who signed him in May 2014 before cutting him in August of that year. During his military career, Villanueva served three tours in Afghanistan and became an Army Ranger, the team said. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star medal for overseas service and the Bronze Star medal for valor.”
Some fans praised Villanueva on social media.
Villanueva previously spoke to ESPN about Colin Kaepernick and the take the knee protests. “I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year … when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year,” Villanueva said. “It’s his decision. Obviously he has brought up the issue in a great way. But I think if he encourages other players or other people in the stands to sit down, it’s going to send the wrong message. He has to be a little more careful and look at the big picture of the things that he’s doing, because as a service member, I have to understand it. But he’s an athlete, he’s got a huge platform, he has to see the impact he has on other people’s lives.”
ESPN reported that Villanueva is a former rifle platoon leader and added, “Villanueva, of Spanish descent, said American minorities have more liberties than in other countries, with freedom to speak their mind, largely because of the military fighting for that right.”