NFL player apologizes for standing up to US flag during national anthem
American football player Alejandro Villanueva stands up during the US national anthem despite a team plan to skip it in protest, September 24, 2017.
Islam Times - An American football player has apologized for standing up to the US national anthem during a recent game, saying the move made his team “look bad” amid tensions between President Donald Trump and the National Football League (NFL).
Alejandro Villanueva surprised his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates on Sunday, after entering the field early despite a team plan to come in after the national anthem to protest Trump's remarks.
According to reports, the Steelers had planned to kneel during the Star Spangled Banner but then decided to move their protest off the field and skip the anthem entirely to avoid backlash against individuals like Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who fought in Afghanistan.
Villanueva said Monday that he had asked team manager Michael Pettaway Tomlin for permission to stand in the tunnel and watch the national anthem from there while his team stood behind him.
However, he left the tunnel early and was torn between going back to his team and turning his back on the flag ceremony or "butcher" the plan and stay there while his team could not join him.
“I have made Coach Tomlin look bad and that is my fault and my fault only; I have made my teammates look bad and that is my fault and my fault only and I made the Steelers look bad and that is my fault and my fault only,” he told reporters.
The protests began last year when former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
The 29-year-old said he started his protests because he wanted to spark a nationwide debate on police violence against African Americans. Several more players have since joined in, nearly all of them black.
Last week, Trump refueled the controversy during a Republican political rally in Alabama, where he blasted the protesting players-- mostly African Americans -- as "sons of b****es" who should lose their job for not standing during renditions of the national anthem. The president then doubled down on his criticism in a series of follow-up tweets.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has rebuked Trump, saying his statements reveal his "unfortunate lack of respect" for the players and their constitutional right to freedom of expression.
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