Once again, American Football has been the hot topic of debate on Twitter for the past couple of weeks over another national anthem controversy, one involving the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The trend started off with former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick, who before a preseason game last year, sat down instead of standing up for the “Star-Spangled Banner” as a form of protest against violence and discrimination against people of color. This was similarly repeated a few times afterwards by other NFL players and teams who would opt to kneel rather than stand for the national anthem, yet no other team has dealt with more scrutiny as that of the “Men of Steel” has.
Before the start of their game against the Chicago Bears on September 24, the
Steelers remained in their locker room during the anthem, with the exception of player Alejandro Villanueva, former army soldier, who stood at the entrance of the tunnel with his hand over his heart.
This quickly blew up over Twitter where a lot of Steelers fans expressed anger and disappointment with their team’s behavior and considered it blatant disrespect to the flag, the veterans, and even the nation itself. They asked for a public apology. Some people were so outraged that they even called for boycotting the team and even the sport itself. Others, however, brought up the first amendment and the players’ rights to free speech and expression of protest in whichever way they wish to do so, and they commended the players for sticking to their cause. But one question remains: what was the cause they were protesting for?
Similarly to Kaepernick, the team was protesting the injustice that people of color face in the US; however, they were also responding to President Trump’s words in which he cursed at NFL players who protest the anthem and tweeted that he insisted they be fired. However, it was later noted that the team had been dealing with internal strife prior to the whole debacle and following the President’s remarks.
The official statement from Steelers’ president Art Rooney II said the following, “Our players have stayed united and have respected that, like our country, there are diverse opinions in our locker room. It is a difficult time in our country. I hope that eventually we will come together as a nation to respect the diverse opinions that exist and work together to make our communities better for all our citizens.”
The “Black and Gold” team is trying to put the controversy behind it, and as such their previous display was not repeated in their following games. Yet, tensions remain between the players themselves as well as between them and their fans.