Last week Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt attracted national attention when he announced: ‘I’m not kneeling for the flag.’ The message came as part of a tweet storm that addressed a range of issues, including NFL players getting taken advantage of financially.
More recently Tuitt elaborated on his position, this time via Instagram, explaining why he stands for the flag while also adding thoughts about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Specifically, he said: “I stand for the flag because I am a proud American. Like previously stated, this country has provided and rewarded my family in so many ways through our perseverance and hard work. I will continue to honor my country and be an example to my children to stand for what they believe in.”
Stephon Tuitt on Police Brutality, Black Lives Matter
Then Tuitt went on to elaborate on related issues, saying: “In regards to police brutality and the black lives matter movement I will support these causes through other means. It’s unfortunate that a couple unprofessional individuals have caused such havoc on our country and damaged the trust of its citizens. I will not let these individuals steer me from the fact on the opportunity this country gives for everyone….”
I stand for the flag because I am a proud American. Like previously stated, this country has provided and rewarded my family in so many ways through our perseverance and hard work. I will continue to honor my… https://t.co/tSofslwOqJ
— stephon tuitt (@DOCnation_7) July 30, 2020
It’s possible that Tuitt went out of his way to address police brutality in the wake of pushback—including pushback from Pittsburgh Steelers teammate Zach Banner, who responded to Tuitt’s tweet with a response of his own, one that pretty much speaks for itself:
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion
But do not associate this message with me, or others who will decide to kneel
Because Breonna Taylor’s killers are still free
And George Floyd and Manuel Ellis’s last words were, “I CANT BREATHE!”
BLACK LIVES MATTER! https://t.co/6gMrL9l5hl
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) July 27, 2020
Even Mark Madden of 105.9 The X got in the middle of the Tuitt-Banner dust-up, coming down on the side of Tuitt, saying: “Looks like social-media conflict b/w [Tuitt] & [Banner] on the ‘take a knee’ issue. I’m going to side w/the guy who hasn’t been cut so many times it’s a wonder he ain’t bled to death.”
You’re not realizing what you’re doing with this tweet Mark. You’re actively making something about protesting, and changing our country’s systemic issues that’s killing my friends and family more about sports… You took it too far this time… I’m done responding to you. Foreve https://t.co/ClgXMjEvDa
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) July 28, 2020
Madden is, of course, referring to the fact that Banner bounced around the league for the first year-and-a-half of his NFL career, spending time with the Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers before finding a home with the Steelers. (Though I’m not sure what one issue has to do with the other.)
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Tuitt Returning from Torn Pectoral, Banner Competing for Right Tackle Job
Anyway, both Tuitt and Banner have more to worry about than a social-media conflict. Tuitt is working to return from a torn pectoral that cost him the majority of the 2019 season. He was recently labeled a ‘dark horse’ candidate to become the very best interior defensive lineman in the NFL in 2020.
As for Banner, he’s aiming to win the starting right tackle job, which ought to be between him and Chuks Okorafor, though the coaching staff could also choose to move Matt Feiler back to right tackle if neither Banner nor Okorafor impresses enough to start. Banner will earn $1.75 million in salary this season and is scheduled to hit unrestricted free-agency in 2021, so winning a starting job would earn him a huge pay raise beginning next year, either in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.