Pittsburgh Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva blames the media for the controversy surrounding Drew Brees’ remarks against kneeling during the national anthem this week, believing that the comment was taken out of context.
Villanueva, a former captain in the United States Army who famously stood alone outside the Steelers’ tunnel during the national anthem in 2017 while his entire team remained behind, refused to comment during an interview with KDKA Thursday when asked about Brees’ comment.
“It was taken out of context the last time I talked about this issue. I will never speak on it again,” he said before adding: “I’m going to blame it on the media. The media is always trying to hyperfocus things. Pit people against each other. The media is unbelievably divisive right now.”
The offensive tackle became a part of the anthem debate when in September 2017 he was the sole member of the Steelers to stand during the national anthem before a game against the Chicago Bears.
Villanueva, a graduate from West Point who served three tours in Afghanistan and became an Army Ranger before joining the NFL in 2014, apologized at the time for what he said was a mistake, blown out of proportion by the media.
He recalled asking Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if he could lead the team out of the tunnel with the captains, but the plan was messed up due to confusion at the end of the tunnel, reports said.
“Unfortunately I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally,” Villanueva said in 2017. “Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself I feel embarrassed.”
Villanueva said during a press conference following the incident that he didn’t mind if his teammates chose to take a knee or sit during the anthem, adding that some of the players who have protested, have also thanked him for his service.
“People that are taking a knee are not saying anything negative about the military, they’re not saying anything negative about the flag, they’re just trying to protest that there are some injustices in America.”