BREAKING: Villanueva APOLOGIZES

Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva became the wearer of the most popular jersey in the NFL after he went out to observe the National Anthem before Sunday’s game while the rest of the team was hiding in the locker room. Don’t expect that trend to continue.

CBS Pittsburgh reports that the player, a former US Army Ranger who served in the Afghanistan War, has apologized for doing the right thing, and is even implying he never meant to do the right thing in the first place:

“Unfortunately, I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally,” Villanueva said. “Every single time I see that picture of me, standing by myself, I feel embarrassed,” Villanueva said in a press conference Monday […]

Villanueva says he asked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if he could be out in front with the captains during the national anthem and they agreed to it, but when he went to the front of the tunnel to see the flag, he went too far unintentionally.

“When we came out of the locker room into that tunnel, it was a very small area. There was a flag or something coming off the field so there were a bunch of Bears’ fans, coming off the field holding that going in front of us, so it kind of held us up,” Villanueva said.

The rest of the team remained in the tunnel.

“I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault, and my fault only,” Villanueva said. “We as a team tried to figure it out, but obviously butchered it.”

During his press conference, the former Army Ranger says he is absolutely okay if teammates kneel or sit during the national anthem.

“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,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva went on to “take offense” to any suggestion that “Coach [Mike] Tomlin is not as patriotic as you can get in America, or any one of my teammates, or the owner.”

What. A. Crock.

Could this “I just accidentally walked a little too far out of the tunnel” story possibly be true? Or did Villanueva’s superiors and teammates pressure him to recite this crap? Neither option reflects well on him.

Compare this farce to the story of Erich Nikischer, who just decided to end his thirty years as an employee of New Era Field in protest of the Buffalo Bills snubbing the National Anthem:

I waited until the National Anthem ended, I took off my shirt, threw my Bills hat on the ground, walked out […] During the National Anthem…the song that is about our country, our veterans that fight and die for us, it’s just something I feel you shouldn’t disrespect that way. I believe people have the right to protest; I just don’t believe that’s the proper venue for it […] I will never step foot in the that place again, I will never watch an NFL football game again until this ends.

I wish Mr. Nikischer success in finding a new job, but I guarantee you his prospects are less certain, and far less lucrative, than Mr. Villanueva’s would be if he had decided that a team that had disavowed patriotism could do without him.

Is there anyone — anyone — left in today’s NFL willing to stand up to the poison spreading through it?