UPDATE (1:08 p.m. ET): The Pittsburgh Steelers followed through on head coach Mike Tomlin’s comments Sunday.
Every Steelers player save for one remained in the locker room while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played at Soldier Field ahead of Pittsburgh’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a decorated U.S. Army veteran, was the lone Steelers player to stand on the field for the national anthem, standing just outside the tunnel.
ORIGINAL STORY: The Pittsburgh Steelers will make the strongest statement yet in opposition to President Donald Trump’s criticism of NFL players.
The entire Steelers team will remain in the locker room while “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played before Pittsburgh’s game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, head coach Mike Tomlin told Jamie Erdahl of CBS Sports.
Tomlin said the gesture was about team unity.
“We’re not participating in the anthem (Sunday),” he told Erdahl. “Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his teammate who chooses not to.”
Trump at a rally Friday night bashed NFL players who have chosen to protest during the national anthem, calling them “sons of (expletives)” who should be “fired.” He’s since doubled down on that stance in multiple tweets.
Since Trump’s initial statements, scores of athletes, owners and others in the sports world have spoken out against the president. Several Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens players knelt during the anthem before their game in London, and Jaguars owner Shad Khan locked arms with his team.
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