The Pittsburgh Steelers chose not to enter the field during the playing of the national anthem on Sunday, eliciting boos from the crowd at Chicago’s Soldier Field football stadium.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced ahead of the game with the Chicago Bears that the team would not appear on field. Tomlin made clear that the gesture would not be to protest a particular political cause, but to “remove ourselves from this circumstance,” in light of President Donald Trump’s crusade against players who choose to kneel during the anthem to protest racism.
Alejandro Villanueva, an offensive tackle for the Steelers and former Army Ranger, diverged from the team’s action, choosing instead to stand at the entrance of the tunnel with his helmet off during the anthem.
When the anthem ended and the rest of the team ran out on to the field, many in the Chicago crowd jeered them.
Many Steelers fans registered their dissatisfaction with the team’s actions on social media.
Huge @steelers fan but the amount of disrespect for your country today was appalling. I will not be watching the game. God bless America.
— Nick Chapman (@nicartis) September 24, 2017
As a part of a 4 Generation military family, I will always stand with country over a sports team. Was a die hard Steelers fan. No longer.
— Down the Rabbit Hole (@Jenlee2425Jen) September 24, 2017
Steelers gonna lose because they didn’t go out
— Jordan DeMarco (@jordan_demarco) September 24, 2017
Others praised Villanueva for choosing to stand for the anthem.
Huge shoutout to Alejandro Villanueva #78 Pittsburgh Steelers. The only player that truly honors that freedom was at a cost. #TakeTheKnee
— Candy Carter (@CandyC917) September 24, 2017
Some observers complimented the entire team for its courage, however.
I think that was a powerful message by the Steelers
— Jason Day (@dayonefamily) September 24, 2017
Thank you Steelers!! Taking a stand or a knee is often unpopular but more rewarding than you’ll ever know!!
— Lee Ann del Castillo (@LeeAnndelCasti2) September 24, 2017
The Steelers’ choice to abstain from participating in the national anthem comes as a response to Trump’s escalating vendetta against players who have knelt during the anthem to protest racism. Trump reiterated his call on Sunday morning for fans…