The #TakeAKnee protesters are now spreading like a wild fire throughout the country. What started with Colin Kaepernick and a small handful of other National Football League players has become a movement across sports that is now bleeding into every aspect of our society. President Donald Trump reignited the debate when he defiantly proclaimed the NFL should fire these players, even going as far as using profanity to show his disdain toward the athletes. In response, players knelt or locked arms in solidarity.
While the story was found in all the teams who did protest, one major story was found in a player who didn’t.
The Pittsburgh Steelers announced prior to this past Sunday’s game that the team would not take the field during the National Anthem. The purpose of this, according to the team, was to avoid playing politics and putting people on the spot.
One player who did take the field however was offensive tackle Alejandro Villaneuva, who came out of the tunnel just prior to the anthem beginning. Villaneuva is a former Army ranger who served several tours in Afghanistan.
While many opponents to the protests celebrated Villaneuva’s move, he has since backtracked on his stand and issued an apology.
In a recent press conference, he discussed the events that transpired. He noted that he did so out of respect. Given his service and what the symbols of our nation mean to him, the issue of what to do was a serious moral dilemma. But he ultimately decided to emerge from the tunnel and honor the flag during the National Anthem.
But he went on to explain that he inadvertently made his coach and teammates look bad. For that, he was sorry.
It is unclear at this time what events led to his apology. Clearly Villaneuva felt strong enough at the time to take the field for the National Anthem. Was he coerced or guilted by team leadership into publicly apologizing?
Furthermore, if the NFL is a place where patriots are put on the spot and humiliated for showing their love of country, should any of us be watching this perverse spectacle?