Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva stirred up a media firestorm this week by choosing to cover up the Antwon Rose Jr. decal on his helmet during Monday night’s victory over the New York Giants. (Instead of displaying the name of the police shooting victim, he overwrote it with the name of the late Alwyn Cashe, an Army sergeant and Iraq War hero who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.) Villanueva was the only player to break with his teammates in week one, but it appears at least one other player will be going in another direction this weekend against the Denver Broncos.
Maurkice Pouncey on Antwon Rose Jr.
On Thursday Steelers center and offensive captain Maurkice Pouncey posted a letter on his Instagram account in which he indicated that he “was unaware of the whole story” surrounding Rose’s death, and that “moving forward, I will make my own decision on the back of my helmet.”
Antwon Rose Jr. died at 17 after he was shot in the back three times by an East Pittsburgh police officer in June 2018. Pouncey may be referring to the circumstances surrounding the traffic stop that resulted in the shooting, as the car in which Rose was a passenger matched the description of a vehicle reportedly involved in a drive-by.
The longtime Steelers center has a history of supporting police departments in Pittsburgh and in his home state of Florida. He said he “takes responsibility for not doing more investigating into something that is sensitive to the community and his family, but it is a lesson learned as it relates to political issues that occur every day in our society.”
Pouncey goes on to say: “Make no mistake, I am against racism and I believe the best thing I can do is to continue helping repair relationships between the police and their communities.”
Art Rooney II’s Statement
Meanwhile, Steelers owner and president Art Rooney II issued a statement of his own via Twitter and the team’s official web site, which said, in part:
“As an organization, we respect the decisions of each player, coach and staff member relating to how to express themselves on social justice topics. We will continue to support our social initiatives to fight against social injustice and systemic racism not only in our area, but around the country.
Along the way, we understand that individually we may say or do things that are not universally accepted. There will be uncomfortable conversations. But we will strive to be a force for unity in our efforts to support a more just society.
I am proud of the way our players have responded to the need for greater efforts to bring awareness and changes to combat racism and social injustice. I know they will continue to be leaders in our communities and their hometowns.”
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 17, 2020
History of the Antwon Rose Helmet Decal Controversy
On Monday September 14 the Steelers announced that all of the team’s players would be wearing Antwon Rose Jr. decals on their helmets this season. After Villenueva failed to do so during Monday night’s game against the Giants, the longtime Steelers left tackle and former Army Ranger was called out by Rose’s mother, which forced team leaders like Cameron Heyward and Ben Roethlisberger to address the issue with the media.
That led to Maurkice Pouncey and Art Rooney II making statements of their own.
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