UPDATE: Alejandro Villanueva says his national anthem display was an accident. Here’s the full story.
As the NFL regular season continues, so has the weighing in on protests to the national anthem, from the sports and non-sports alike. This includes the president himself. The protests have expanded to include nearly entire teams, though there are still those willing to stand for the flag.
The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to remain in the locker room during Sunday’s national anthem, all except one player. Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, was the lone player who left the locker room to stand outside the tunnel.
He received some criticism, but if jersey sales are any indicator, it appears as if the nation appreciates his service and the stand he took. This relatively little-known Steeler is now seeing jersey sales skyrocket. Villanueva’s jersey of Number 78 jumped to be the third highest-seller in Steelers jerseys, one of those ahead of him being a custom-made jersey of superstar Antonio Brown. He also has the fifth-highest selling jersey in all of the league. More from Steeler Nation:
On Fanatics.com, sales of Villanueva’s jersey skyrocketed, launching up to the third highest-seller in Pittsburgh Steelers jersey as of just before 8 PM Eastern time, behind only a custom Steelers jersey and Antonio Brown‘s jersey. Villanueva’s jersey also jumped into the top sellers around the league, and as of 7:45 PM EST trailed only Marshawn Lynch, Derek Carr, Carson Wentz, Brown, and Aaron Rodgers in sales.
A bold stand and it appears to be appreciated by those who live under the very freedom he helped provide.
Villanueva graduated from West Point before serving as a major with the U.S. Army. For his actions in Afghanistan, which involved rescuing wounded soldiers under enemy fire, he earned a Bronze Star for valor. While at West Point, Villanueva also played for the Army Black Knights.
Villanueva offered no comment after the game, which earned him criticism from Steelers Wire. Curt Popejoy wrote:
Meanwhile, head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took to the podium after the game and rather than talk about what went wrong in the game they had to answer questions about Villanueva. His decision ran counter to what Tomlin said the team was planning to do but Villanueva didn’t want to talk about that after the game.
For the sake of his teammates, he owes it to them to address this situation publicly rather than them doing it for him by proxy.
Steeler Nation compiled a sampling of tweets in support of Villanueva, including from several fellow veterans and a few new fans.
Thank you Alejandro Villanueva for STILL honoring the Nations Song. That Flag and Song is more than the POTUS. I’m a Vet too. #Steelers
— Brandon (@bamatooth2) September 24, 2017
My new hero #AlejandroVillanueva. More guts than all of them.
— Carole Jean Flodin (@flodincm) September 24, 2017
Regardless of which side of this debate people fall on, it is clear that people still appreciate the men and women who selflessly serve our country in the military.