On Tuesday night the mother of Antwon Rose Jr. criticized Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva for covering her son’s name on the back of his helmet, even as all other Steelers players wore the decal during Monday night’s game against the New York Giants.
In a Facebook post, Michelle Kenney took issue with Villanueva breaking with his teammates, who collectively voted to honor the memory of police shooting victim Antwon Rose Jr. by wearing an Antwon Rose decal for the entire 2020 season.
Instead Villanueva displayed the name of Alwyn Cashe, a former Army Ranger and Silver Star recipient who died in November 2005 of injuries suffered while rescuing fellow soldiers in Iraq.
Michelle Kenney’s Facebook Post
“The Pittsburgh Steelers took a team vote. Obviously, one person didn’t like the results, so they chose to do something different,” Kenney wrote on Facebook, adding: “I have nothing against vets and absolutely appreciate everything they have done and continue to do for us. But this one person showed us exactly who he is and obviously he didn’t approve of how the vote turned out.”
Al Villanueva Sought Mike Tomlin’s Permission
On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that Villanueva received his permission, in advance, to change what appeared on his helmet.
“As an organization, and myself as the head coach of the organization, we’re going to support our players however they choose to participate and express themselves, or to not participate and express themselves, as long as they do so thoughtfully and with class,” Tomlin told the media.
But that didn’t placate Kenney, who said in her Facebook post that the Steelers “came to me as a team/organization and I don’t care how good of an individual you are, if you are not a TEAM player, then maybe you are playing for the wrong team.”
Antwon Rose Jr.
Michelle Kenney’s son Antwon was 17 years old when he died after being shot in the back by an East Pittsburgh police officer in June 2018. The shooting occurred after the officer in question, Michael Rosfeld, stopped a Chevy Cruze that matched the description of a vehicle reportedly involved in a drive-by shooting.
The NFL is allowing players to wear the names of victims of police brutality on their helmets this season, paving the way for the Steelers to honor the memory of Antwon Rose Jr.
Alwyn C. Cashe
But on Monday, Villanueva—a graduate of West Point Military Academy and a former Army Ranger who was awarded the Bronze Star for valor—displayed the name of late Army sergeant Alwyn Cashe on his helmet.
Cashe suffered life-threatening injuries in October 2005 when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over an improvised explosive device, which caused the vehicle to burst into flames. In the process of rescuing fellow soldiers from the burning vehicle he suffered burns over 72 percent of his body. He died the following month at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, which has a facility for treating burns suffered in combat.
The Pentagon is moving towards awarding the Medal of Honor to Cashe, which would make him the first African American recipient of the award for combat valor in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Villaneuva is Pittsburgh’s starting left tackle. He is in the final year of the contract he signed in the summer of 2017 and is scheduled to become a free agent in 2021.
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