On Thursday Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey indicated that he would make his “own decision” in terms of who he would choose to honor on his helmet going forward, indicating he was initially unaware of “the whole story” surrounding Antwon Rose Jr., whose name adorned his helmet during the season opener against the New York Giants.
On Sunday Pouncey had the name of fallen police officer Eric Kelly on the back of his helmet. Kelly was one of three police officers who were killed in an April 2009 incident in Stanton Heights, a Pittsburgh neighborhood.
Pouncey was one of a number of Steelers players who decided to change their helmet tribute in the wake of the controversy surrounding the organization’s decision to honor Antwon Rose Jr., a Black teenager who was killed in a police shooting by an East Pittsburgh police officer in June 2018. Some players, like defensive end Stephon Tuitt, had no helmet decal at all.
For the second week in a row, Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva paid tribute to the late Alwyn Cashe, an Army sergeant and Iraq War hero who was mortally injured while attempting to save the lives of fellow soldiers in October 2005 after their Bradley Fighting Vehicle detonated an improvised explosive device. Cashe was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his heroism and Congress is now poised to award him the Medal of Honor as well.
The 2009 Stanton Heights Standoff
In the aforementioned incident in Stanton Heights, a pair of police officers were killed responding to a domestic disturbance call. Kelly, who was Black, was on his way home from work when he heard the call for backup. He was shot and killed while aiding the two fallen officers. Kelly had been on the job for 14 years and had three daughters when he passed away. Two other officers were also wounded in the standoff with the heavily-armed 22-year-old shooter.
A Brief History of the Antwon Rose Helmet Decal Controversy
On Monday September 14, 2020, the Steelers announced that all of the team’s players would be wearing Antwon Rose Jr. decals on their helmets this season, thereby honoring the memory of the police shooting victim. After left tackle Alejandro Villenueva did not do so during the team’s season opening win against the New York Giants, the West Point graduate and former Army Ranger was called out by Rose’s mother, which forced team captains like Cameron Heyward and Ben Roethlisberger to address the issue with the media. In turn, Maurkice Pouncey indicated he would likely not wear the Antwon Rose Jr. decal on his helmet going forward.
Pouncey was the Steelers’ nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2019 and he has a history of supporting police departments, both in Pittsburgh and his home state of Florida. He recently reiterated that he plans to continue working to help improve the relationship between police officers and the citizens and communities they serve.
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