Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Monday that he regrets participating in his team's Sunday protest of the national anthem.
Roethlisberger released a statement in which he said that he does not "believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest," according to the Hollywood Reporter.
On Sunday, the entire Steelers team remained in the locker room during the national anthem before their showdown with the Chicago Bears. Their absence was prompted by outrage across the NFL after President Donald Trump said on Friday that NFL players who, like Colin Kaepernick, kneel during the national anthem should be fired.
"I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the National Anthem yesterday," Roethlisberger wrote. "The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting."
"As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest," Rothlisberger continued. "For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice."
The only Steeler who did take the field during the anthem was Army veteran and offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who stood by the field for the anthem with his hand over his heart. Villanueva was criticized by head coach Mike Tomlin for his decision to attend the national anthem; Villanueva subsequently said that he wished he hadn't taken the field, saying that he felt he "threw my teammates under the bus unintentionally."