- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2017

When the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to stay their sorry selves in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem at Sunday’s game, the entire NFL fanbase, minus the Friends of Colin Kaepernick crowd, gave a collective sigh — a heavy, frustrated, “here we go again” sigh.

Then came Alejandro Villaneuva, jogging onto the football field to stand and place hand over heart as the anthem played. Alone.

And now Villaneuva’s the hero; his teammates, the dark-hearted.

Villaneuva is a U.S. Army veteran who served three tours in Afghanistan. It’s sad that his fellow teammates couldn’t put aside their partisan politicking for messages that aren’t based entirely on truths for the playing of the one song that’s supposed to unite all of America — for the one song that recognizes the great sacrifices of those who went before, those who gave so much, those who served as Villanueva did.

The Steelers were reportedly surprised that Villaneuva didn’t stay in the locker room with the rest of the team. According to ESPN, the plan was that the entire team would snub league rules that required on-field presence for the playing of the anthem, and instead stay in the locker room. The logic was that no single player could then be targeted for criticism.

But Villanueva chose country over team. And really, given his past criticisms of Kaepernick, king of the on-field political protest, it’s really not that surprising after all.

“I agree that America is not perfect,” he said, in response to last year’s bended-knee antics by Kaepernick. “I agree that there are a lot of issues with minorities in this country. I agree we should do something about it. But I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down when the national anthem of the country that is providing you freedom and providing you $60 million a year is the best way to do it when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and protecting our freedom for less than $20,000 a year.”

Ouch. Good point, yes?

These NFL players who stand down on the anthem and take a knee in protest aren’t going out on a limb for their principles. They’re not risking their lives. They’re not even spending any money. And they’re certainly not displaying any type of valor or bravery. But you know who has and who is?

Villaneuva. First in the military and now, taking the lone voice in the wild approach to stand, in the stunned face of his Steelers‘ teammates, for his country, for his fellow veterans, for his patriotic fans and, most important, for a unifying principle that really matters.

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