Update: Some angry NFL fans have chosen a different way to express their dissatisfaction with the league and some of its players. As Yahoo reports, Steelers' offensive-lineman Alejandro Villanueva's jersey becomes an overnight best-seller after he stands for anthem.
Villanueva already had a modicum of fame thanks to a commercial with USAA, the financial services company for military members and their families. The 29-year-old is a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan before returning to football (he played at Army) in 2014. He has played in 35 games over the past two-plus seasons with Pittsburgh, starting all three games so far this year.
On Saturday and Sunday, as NFL players discussed how to handle the callous remarks of President Donald Trump, who called players who protest during the national anthem “sons of bitches” and that they should be fired, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told his players that they must be unified – either they would be in agreement of what to do on the field, or no one from the team would be on the field.
Since they couldn’t come to a consensus, Pittsburgh players and coaches were supposed to stay in the locker room, though it was later amended to the team’s tunnel near the Soldier Field turf because of timing.
As the rest of his teammates stood in the shadows, however, Villanueva was about 20 feet in front of them, his hand over his heart, during the playing of the anthem.
His teammates were reportedly surprised that Villanueva stood by himself, as the edict was that the entire team was to show unity. Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated Sunday night that he did not want offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva to stand for the national anthem, instead of sitting it out with the rest of his teammates...
Tomlin said in a post-game press conference that he was looking for “100 percent participation” in whatever course of action the team took during the national anthem. When asked by a reporter about Villanueva coming out for the anthem, Tomlin said, “Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team.”
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As we detailed earlier, with all of the grandstanding and emotional reactions from the NFL over the weekend, the sport's smartest executives seemingly proved that they have no idea they're fighting a battle that simply can't be won.
While it is clear as day to anyone who can disassociate themselves from the emotional response to being verbally attacked by a tweetstorm (as truly 'terrifying' as such a thing can be), the NFL doesn't seem to understand that while almost every American can agree that football is a great sport, roughly 50% of them will vehemently disagree with whatever political stance any given player or league exec decides to publicly announce. And, since the NFL's future depends on selling overpriced ad spots to massive corporations looking for a consistent number of eyeballs, alienating any group of viewers, for whatever reason, is just bad for business.
But don't take our word for it...here's just a couple of examples for what the fans had to say over the weekend.
"It's a disgrace. It's disgusting. They're getting paid to do a job...to play ball and do whatever the fans want them to do."
"They're paying these guys to do a job. They're not supposed to be involved in politics."
Meanwhile, this Ravens fan simply burned his jersey to the tune of the national anthem...
...while this Kansas City Chiefs fan (or 'former' fan as it were) was a little more vocal on exactly why he made the decision to burn all of his NFL gear.
"You can take your Kansas City Chiefs and you can take your NFL and you can shove it."
"Now, think about that and think about the millions a year that you people are making to play a game while we got soldiers overseas that get paid minimum wage to put their lives on the line for that flag."
"Protest does not belong in our NFL sports. It's a game."
But these videos were hardly unique as fans all around the country torched their NFL gear...
I have been a Steelers fan since 1966, but no more. pic.twitter.com/9W4oMl1EhF— Starving1 (@ArvinGibbs) September 24, 2017
Brendan Finn, a New York Giants season ticket holder since the '80s, even decided to burn his tickets...
Finally, the owner of the Palmetto Alehouse in South Carolina took things to a whole new level after declaring that his restaurant would not air another NFL game until "all players pay respect to our flag and our country!!!"
"NFL will never be played at Palmetto Alehouse until all players pay respect to our flag and our country!!!" said the business owner to FOX Carolina, calling the players both entitled and arrogant individuals who use their position for advancement.
McCraw, an ex-military member, says he found the actions of NFL players protesting the national anthem by kneeling, disrespectful. He said he feels that athletes and people who've attained celebrity status should not be telling people what or what not to do because they don't share the same struggles as people who live normal lives.
"I do not support anyone that thinks that our country or our flag is not worth standing for," he explained.
"Our president is our president, but I don't stand in unity with everything he says," said the restaurant owner. "This is a country of one people and we need to stand for our flag."
"There are issues in this country that need to be addressed, but disrespecting our flag and our country is not the way to do it," said McCraw.
And as far as how the restaurant owner's decision will affect business, McCraw says he's not losing any sleep over it.
"It's no concern for me," said McCraw. "I'm an ex-military guy. My whole concept is about being local and supporting the community. It is not about supporting a concept that is disrespectful to our flag or our country, and I don't think the people that come to my bar will feel that this is disrespectful to them."
So, to all the NFL execs who can't help but politicize their league, good luck with all those "make-good" advertisements that will come out of your own pockets when your viewership hits an inevitable dip over the coming weeks.