Ben Roethlisberger Wishes Steelers Approached Anthem Protest 'Differently'

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2017

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talks during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expressed regret about his team's decision to remain in the tunnel during the national anthem prior to Sunday's 23-17 defeat to the Chicago Bears

ESPN.com's Darren Rovell shared Roethlisberger's comments:

Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, who served three tours of duty with the United States Army in Afghanistan, was the only member of the team who stood outside the tunnel for the anthem.

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Jacob Klinger of PennLive.com reported the Steelers held a vote over what to do during the anthem, and standing in the tunnel won by a "narrow majority." Steelers offensive guard Ramon Foster said Villanueva's teammates supported his choice to stand separate from the rest of the team, but James Harrison offered a different sentiment.

"We thought we were all in attention with the same agreement, obviously," the Steelers linebacker said. "But, I guess we weren't."

In a statement to CBS (via Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith), Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he and his team were "not going to play politics":

"People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t have to 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. So we’re not participating today. That’s our decision. We’re going to be 100 percent. We came here to play a football game. That’s our intent."

Many teams throughout the NFL demonstrated during the anthem before Sunday's games, whether by symbolically locking arms in a sign of unity, deciding to kneel or declining to appear for "The Star-Spangled Banner" altogether.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement last season to protest against police brutality and social injustice, and players became more outspoken after critical comments by President Donald Trump.

On Friday, Trump said at a rally in Alabama that NFL owners should "get that son of a b---h off the field right now" when a player refuses to stand for the anthem, and he doubled down on that stance in a pair of tweets Saturday.