"I wish we approached it differently."
The entire Pittsburgh Steelers' roster planned to stay in the tunnel during the national anthem yesterday at Soldier Field, prior to their matchup against the Chicago Bears. The only member of the Steelers roster who did not stay in the tunnel was starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served terms in Afghanistan, who stood in the walkway leading from the tunnel to the field.
Today, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger voiced some regret about not joining Villanueva for the anthem.
In fact, Roethlisberger said he was unable to sleep last night due to his decision to remain in the tunnel with the rest of his teammates. In a statement posted to his official website, BigBen7.com, the Steelers QB writes,
“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,” he 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. 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.
“I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality. Moving forward, I hope standing for the anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe. God bless those men and women.”
As Roethlisberger noted in his statement, the Steelers' goal was to have all of their players in unity, regardless of what form of protest they chose.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin also spoke about Villanueva after the team's 23-17 overtime loss, saying he was hoping for “100 percent participation” in whatever method of protest the players decided upon.