Steelers Coach Blasts Player, a Former Army Ranger, for Standing During National Anthem

Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands by himself in the tunnel for the national anthem prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. / Getty Images
Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands for the national anthem on September 24, 2017 / Getty Images
September 25, 2017

The head coach of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers blasted one of his players, a former Army Ranger, for his decision to break from the team and respectfully stand for the national anthem on Sunday.

After a non-unanimous "team" decision, Coach Mike Tomlin had insisted the entire team—reflecting the actions of some other NFL teams—stay in the locker room prior to their game against the Chicago Bears, and not be present for the national anthem, Fox News reports. One Steelers player decided to break with Tomlin's decision, and came out to stand for the national anthem with his hand over his heart.

Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva stood alone on the Steelers sideline to pay tribute to his country.

Villanueva is a retired Army Ranger who was awarded the Bronze Star and served three tours of duty in Afghanistan.

After losing to the Chicago Bears, Tomlin spoke out against Villanueva's decision.

"Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team," Tomlin said.

Tomlin also said that the decision to stay in the locker room came from his players.

"Many of them felt like something needed to be done," Tomlin said. "I asked those guys to discuss it and whatever they discussed that we have 100 percent participation or we do nothing."

While Villanueva was not available for comment following the game, ESPN asked his teammate, defensive end Cam Heyward, what played into the decision.

"I don't want to go into that, but we support our guy Al. He feels he had to do it. This guy served our country, and we thank him for it," Heyward said.

Published under: Army , National Anthem , NFL