Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who graduated from West Point and did three tours of duty as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan before starting his NFL career, told reporters Monday that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being “unfair” to veterans by refusing to stand for the national anthem.
Villanueva said Kaepernick should be “a little more careful” because of the platform he has and make sure he doesn’t “mislead people who truly wake up every morning trying to give everything — including their lives — to protect this country.”
Though Villanueva said he agrees with Kaepernick that something needs to be done to change the way minorities are treated in America, his comments about Kaepernick’s method of protest were similar to those made Monday by Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
“I will be the first one to hold hands with Colin Kaepernick and do something about the way minorities are being treated in the United States — the injustice that is happening with police brutality, the justice system, the inequalities in pay and education,” Villanueva said. “I will be the first, but you can’t do it by looking away from the people who are trying to protect our freedom in our country.”
Per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Villanueva initially didn’t want to talk about Kaepernick but opened up when he was asked about standing for the national anthem and the responsibilities athletes have related to that.
Kaepernick has said he’s refusing to stand for the national anthem because he’s going “to stand with the people that are being oppressed.” Villanueva said he will continue to “stand proudly and sing every line” of the national anthem, which he’s been doing since he first enrolled at West Point.
“There are people fighting, so you can say and do whatever you please,” Villanueva said. “I agree that America isn’t perfect and there are a lot of issues with minorities in this country, and I agree that we should do something about it. I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem of a country that’s providing you freedom, and is providing you $16 million a year when there are black minorities who are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and protecting our freedom for less than $20,000 a year.”