Alejandro Villanueva: I threw my teammates under the bus unintentionally

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Among the images from Sunday’s Steelers-Bears game was one of Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva standing by himself at the end of the tunnel to the field during the playing of the national anthem while the rest of the team’s players waited deeper in the tunnel to come on the field at the end of the song.

The Steelers had said that all players were going to remain inside until after the anthem and linebacker James Harrison said Villanueva’s deviation from that plan took him by surprise. Villanueva spoke to the media on Monday and shed some light on what happened.

Villanueva, who served in the United States Army, said that he spoke to Ben Roethlisberger on Saturday night after the team came to a decision about their plan for Sunday and asked if he could stand at the front of the team so he could see what was happening on the field. He said he walked to a point where he could see the flag on the field, but wound up too far in front of his teammates and didn’t want to walk back to the team during the song.

Villanueva said he did not want to give the impression that the team was not unified and said several times that it was “my fault only” that things didn’t go off as planned.

“Unfortunately I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally,” Villanueva said in a video from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Jerseys and shirts with Villanueva’s number have been selling well since the anthem on Sunday and many have attributed that to where he was standing during the anthem. Villanueva said that impression is “completely wrong” and that he feels embarrassed every time he sees a picture of him standing by himself.

Villanueva spoke passionately about his service during his 15 minutes with the media and said that he does not believe that players who choose not to stand disrespect that service, adding that he’s heard thanks for it from players who have knelt and that he’d be OK with teammates who chose to kneel even though he’d never do it himself.

“We as a team tried to figure it out, obviously we butchered it, but I have learned that … I can’t tell you that I know what my teammates have gone through,” Villanueva said. “I’m not gonna pretend like I have the righteous kind of voice that you should stand up for the national anthem.”

102 responses to “Alejandro Villanueva: I threw my teammates under the bus unintentionally

  1. I’m someone who doesn’t mind the players kneeling, but that also means that Villanueva shouldn’t feel bad at all for not staying in the locker room. I fail to see how he threw them under the bus. They chose to stay in the locker room, he chose not to

  2. He’s a good team mate and I’m sure fellow Steelers’ players and coaches know that. Having served in US military, Villanueva felt compelled to show respect to our country which is the purpose of playing the national anthem.

  3. No you didn’t. Your selfish teammates put you in a situation and you made the right decision. Your teammates should apologize to you for making a decorated combat veteran stand alone. I’m really mad at the Steelers right now, especially Tomlin. Tomlin should apologize to fans and Al publicly.

  4. Well you made lifelong fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers burn their jerseys today so feel shame for your actions Alejandro… oh that’s right that’s rest of your team no need to apologize when millionaire babies get called to the carpet

  5. You have nothing to apologize for Mr. Villanueva. You have as much right to express your opinion as anyone else. In fact you fought so that everyone would have that right. You are the best that America has to offer. God bless you.

  6. That is a tuff position to be in to be forced to throw your teammates or your military brothers under the bus. I guess they all could have come out and showed respect for the Country. Wonder if that would have averted all the division.

  7. I salute my fellow veteran. A lot of you are still blinded by trump and the real reason for protest. Those are all men over there.

  8. I wonder if the rest of the team is going to do a press conference taking responsibility for their role and apologize.

  9. Alejandro Villaneuva understands what it means to be a part of something bigger than egos and personal agendas. The only reason he makes reference to throwing his teammates under the bus is because he unwittingly drew attention to himself when the team wanted to emphasize their unity. If you listen to what he and his teammates are actually saying and stop pigging out on what the media is feeding you in print you will see that there are no hard feelings in either direction. Talk about failing to see the forest for the trees.

  10. He shouldn’t feel bad. Nobody should feel bad. This is America where you’re allowed to voice your opinions. The ones who kneel don’t hate the country, they just see areas of improvement and are quietly sparking a debate because honestly its challenged your and my views more than theirs. Its been refreshing.

  11. I am from Pittsburgh. I live in Pittsburgh. Shame on this team for making him make this decision. He didn’t let the team down. They let him down. I salute to you, Al and what you’ve done for this country.

  12. This is the most maddening disgraceful thing i’ve seen come out of this

    Tomlin and the steelers are gonna get resoundly bood by a half empty stadium and they deserve it

  13. The Steelers plan for the national anthem, much like Sunday’s game plan, was poorly thought out and executed.

  14. Even a West Point graduate Army Ranger, who served 3 tours in Afghanistan, is unfairly forced to second-guess himself in this day and age. THAT is shameful.

  15. Mr. Villanueva I don’t accept your apology none is needed and please accept my thank you for serving my country so my life can be free !

  16. Mike Tomlin could have nipped this in the budd immediately with comforting and kind words about this man and supporting his stance and situation but he failed miserably, Tomlin is resposable for this, Tomlin has divided his locker room Tomlin is a divider !

  17. What a topsy turvy world we live in when AV is the one apologizing, considering the scope of his sacrifice.

    This whole thing is fascinating to watch as it unfolds.

    Is this the beginning of the end of the NFL? I hope not. I love the NFL but I can do without the ancillary nonsense.

  18. Listen to Villanueva at his press conference today. Listen to what he has to say. Its not as explosive as everyone wants it to be. Tomlin did not divide anyone. Al apologized for what the perception has become… because the perception IS NOT TRUE. His team supports him. His coaches support him. He supports them. He supports every player – even the ones on one knee, and he explains it well. Go Steelers!

  19. If you didn’t already have an immense amount of respect for this guy then you sure do now.
    All those selfish, entitled millionaire millennials that fill NFL rosters should take note of how this gentleman handles his business. The world would be a better place if we had more like him.
    I’m dumbfounded and wildly insulted at Tomlin and Harrison calling this guy out. Those guys should be ashamed of themselves.

  20. Well done soldier, well done!

    Hold your head high. You have NOTHING to be ashamed of other than those you characterize as ‘teammates’.

    You know the brotherhood in the service makes the brotherhood in the NFL look like a joke.

    We THANK YOU for your courage (which we NEVER doubted). Your “Teammates” can’t hold a candle to you.

  21. I would much rather see a team stay in the locker room over watching players kneel and fans boo them!!! Send the players out that want to honor our veterans, and let the protesters stay in the locker room. The Steelers actually might have handled it better than the rest of the NFL.

  22. mdsteel92 says:
    September 25, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Listen to Villanueva at his press conference today. Listen to what he has to say. Its not as explosive as everyone wants it to be. Tomlin did not divide anyone. Al apologized for what the perception has become… because the perception IS NOT TRUE. His team supports him. His coaches support him. He supports them. He supports every player – even the ones on one knee, and he explains it well. Go Steelers!

    ————-

    Umm, Villaneuva is more of a leader than Tomlin could ever hope to be.

  23. He’s a soldier. I kind of expected him to follow courtesies and customs. I doubt his teammates took issue with it. He respects their right to protest at the anthem, they should respect his right to not. No need for some forced explanation.

  24. I’m absolutely done with the NFL. The protests irked me, but this absolutely infuriated me. Do you know what Villanueva’s bronze star is for? Here:

    “Villanueva and his troops were ambushed by as many as eight Taliban militants in a spray of bullets. Spc. Martin Piggott was shot in the kneecap. Sgt. Roy Dutton was shot in the back of the leg. Army Pvt. 1st Class Jesse Dietrich was shot near the armpit. Under heavy fire, Villanueva pulled the wounded Dietrich down an alley and into a second mosque, where a medic took over. Villanueva returned to fight, but when he came back to check on the injured soldiers, the medic told him they needed to move the wounded to a safer location. Carrying Piggott on his shoulders, Villanueva took the three to a nearby school, where they waited for a helicopter that would transport the wounded to the city of Kandahar.”

    That’s the guy that Mike Tomlin is saying is not a team player. This guy carried fellow wounded soldiers on his shoulders, through a hail of gunfire. His team says he’s not a team player because he didn’t join their group tantrum. 100% done with the NFL. What is wrong with these people?

  25. If Jerry Jones can make all his players stand for the national Anthem tonight … the Cowboys are truly America’s team.

  26. Extremely proud of Mr. Villanueva yesterday, but today he is doubting himself? Why would you apologize for doing what you knew was the right thing to do?

  27. It would be nice if all the people who claim they admire Villanueva actually took the time to listen to his comments and respect what he says about his coach and teammates, rather than ignoring his comments and continuing to believe their own myths about what happened during the anthem. Genuine respect would require taking the man seriously.

  28. Unbelievable that Tomlin would let this guy twist like this. Why didn’t Tomlin just come out after and say, “I didn’t do a good job of communicating with the players. My fault.”?

    Truly amazing that a guy who stands and respects the national anthem feels he needs to apologize..

    Simply outrageous.

    The NFL screwed this up a long time ago. They should have told Kaepernick, “Colin, you’re welcome to protest on your own time, but while you are under the NFLPA collective bargaining agreement, you will stand for the national anthem, like it says.”

    The players are at work, in the employment of someone else – free speech rules don’t apply.

    Can you imagine the captain of your airliner getting on the microphone and telling you what he thinks about his politics? If he did, would you *really* think that was OK?

    How how about the general manager at the supermarket?

    What if the receptionist figured to tell you all about the way the world is while you’re waiting for your doctor?

    Free speech?

    A little critical thought, please.

  29. He shouldn’t have apologized.
    He had nothing to apologize for.
    He stood for what he believed in.
    I thought that was the whole point?
    You can take a stand , as long as its the pre-approved stand that’s endorsed by politically correct culture.

  30. Mr. Villanueva, I don’t root for your team, but if I find your Jersey for sale in the store I’m buying it. I’d proudly wear it!

  31. As usual, no one is really bothering to find out all the facts. Al wouldn’t separate himself from his teammates, which is what he was trying to explain. It was an accident he was by himself, the team got separated by other people needing access to the tunnel, & then the anthem started so everyone ironically stood where they were instead of moving together. Bottom line is everything that happened yesterday was because of Trump setting a nuke on top of a topic that had really mellowed out.

  32. Dear Pittsburgh, Mr Rooney, Coach Tomlin;

    I would consider it an HONOR to have Alejandro Villaneuva come and play for the New England Patriots. I can guarantee you that coach Belichick would have his back. Coach has high regard for our long snapper and US Navy officer; Joe Cardona. We treat military right in New England. You’d never have to apologize for saluting the flag here.

    Pat’s fan

  33. You threw no one under the bus, Alejandro. You’re expressing yourself as a true American. I admire your stance because it was, obviously, important to you. You’ve served our country (with THREE tours of duty and service.) You owe no one anything. It is we, as American citizens, that owe you a debt of gratitude, whether or not we agree with said stance. THAT is what makes America ALREADY GREAT. I salute you, TRUE American. Anyone who disagrees is welcomed to do so, but, please remember, this is AMERICA. Our ancestors and Brothers and Sisters fought for (and are fighting for) our choice to peacefully protest against, or rally for, any opinion that lets ourselves express our opinions in any manner we see fit. Thank you.

    Oh, and I’m a Browns fan, just so you know.

  34. I root for the Ravens. I respect that the Steelers tried to figure out their way through this as a team. AV understands the bigger picture including the issue at the root of the demonstration which is more than anyone can say for the president. AV shouldn’t have to apologize.

  35. “I can’t tell you that I know what my teammates have gone through”
    Enough said from a veteran that most of us will never know what HE went through. A true Patriot. It’s our individual right to stand or sit, as we see fit.

  36. His team threw their own selves under the bus. The one guy to do the right thing need not apologize for not crawling under with them.

  37. stillers6 says:
    September 25, 2017 at 9:51 pm
    As usual, no one is really bothering to find out all the facts. Al wouldn’t separate himself from his teammates, which is what he was trying to explain. It was an accident he was by himself, the team got separated by other people needing access to the tunnel, & then the anthem started so everyone ironically stood where they were instead of moving together. Bottom line is everything that happened yesterday was because of Trump setting a nuke on top of a topic that had really mellowed out.

    ————–

    Thats utter nonsense. The team was told to stay back and did. He chose differently. He was not forced down the tunnel by others using it, he came out of the tunnel and stood straight and tall with his hand over his heart for the flag he fought for. He did nothing wrong there.

  38. Bottom line is everything that happened yesterday was because of Trump setting a nuke on top of a topic that had really mellowed out………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    It has never mellowed out, It just was brought to a head by the voice of the silent majority. It has been festering for a year causing everything NFL to drop in ratings and purchases

    Nor will it with constant coddling of millionaire millennials by their employers, who now refuse to enforce their own bilaws. Of course this is their prerogative, however the NFL wallet will eventually be the deciding factor.

  39. Thank You for your service sir. I can’t believe a courageous man is apart of such a shady organization. Tomlin is a first class self righteous soap box standing fraud! Scumbag of the 1st degree and those babies he coaches aren’t any better. The fact that entire teams have to lie just to put up a pseudo front to give it back to the o president is laughable. Yeah trumps comments werent the best bit the players and the league played right into his trap. The league has now sent in motion the beginning of a ratings slump it has never seen before. It serves them right. Black, white yeah they are saying the right things but if you think holding hands and singing kumbahya is going to make any difference other than lower revenue by alienating your fan base you are sadly mistaken.

  40. Dear Pittsburgh, Mr Rooney, Coach Tomlin;

    I would consider it an HONOR to have Alejandro Villaneuva come and play for the New England Patriots.

    ——————————————————-
    Really? According to Alejandro Villanueva, Mike Tomlin was the only coach in the NFL who reached out to him and the only reason he reached out and gave him a chance was because he was a veteran. But all the people on here are ripping Tomlin to shreds and claiming he forced Villanueva to apologize and all the other BS people say when they haven’t bothered listening to the man and just want to feed the coach to the dogs because they don’t like him.

  41. It is absolutely disgusting that the one guy doing the right thing is the only one apologizing and conceding any level of wrongdoing. Absolutely disgusting.

  42. I hate myself for responding to a political thread but…

    Tomlin threw him under the bus.
    He’s a true American hero.
    Now his is the #1 selling jersey in the league.

    Villanueva 1.
    Tomlin 0.

  43. He is and always will be a Ranger
    and he did what Rangers do

    Sua Sponte – Ranger Motto – “of their own accord”

    RLTW – Rangers Lead The Way

    Villanueva fits all of the above

    3/75th

  44. I’d say he got a stern talking to from the Coach AND the guy signing his checks for deviating from the party line, but none of them want the optics of disciplining him for his action.

    But what the heck, the baseball playoffs are coming up soon and so is the NHL season…the NFL is getting just a bit like the WWE.

  45. They deserved to be thrown under the bus. I know it was unintentional, and you may feel bad. However, thank you for not throwing all of your fellow Army mates under the bus. That is way more important.

  46. This is why politics and sports don’t mix. These protests don’t “unite” anyone. All they do is turn people against one another.teammates turn against teammates. Coaches throw players under a bus. Even fans turn against their own teams and boo them. Enough is enough. Let’s not have another week of this nonsense.

  47. Ravens fan here.

    For all the bad blood between Baltimore and Pittsburgh there’s a lot of commonality… two patriotic, blue-collar fan bases who are disgusted by what happened Sunday (on the field and off).

    If I’m ever in your city I’ll buy you a beer and we’ll toast Alejandro Villanueva.

  48. patsfan112 says:
    September 25, 2017 at 11:43 pm
    This is why politics and sports don’t mix. These protests don’t “unite” anyone.
    ——————————————————————————–

    I don’t know… see my post above.

  49. Whatever happen to agreeing to disagree?

    Both sides have valid points, but let’s not let America be a nation of sides. It’s a beautiful country, but this divide is tearing us apart…aren’t we stronger and better than that?

    We have laws so abide them, we have freedoms so use them but don’t abuse them, and most of all we’re all we’ve got and all we need.

  50. raideralex99 says:
    September 25, 2017 at 9:02 pm
    If Jerry Jones can make all his players stand for the national Anthem tonight … the Cowboys are truly America’s team.

    Jones knelt. It’s disgusting. I know most people with tickets will go to their games but could we at least stay out of the sports bars? If the sports bars are ghost towns for the next 13-18 Sundays, it’ll get back to the NFL and their advertisers.

  51. Alejandro, hold your head high, you are the only American hero on this past Sunday and one of a few who realize standing for the National Anthem is more important than a feud with the President. I understand the importance of team unity, but the public is not going to have a lot of sympathy for rich cowards who now hide in the locker room. Your team is the one who attempted to throw you under the bus and compromise your morals and loyalty to country. I wish you well, not so much to the Steelers and other teams who will suffer Karmic payback this season.

  52. The fact that a relatively unknown player in the NFL has sold the most gear since he chose to stand for what he believed in and put his life on the line for is a reflection on what most NFL fans believe as well.

    Most fans don’t like players using the national anthem of this county to be misused as a protest. I sympathize with their aim of protesting injustice, but using the national anthem to do it unintentionally disrespects many, especially military and their families who fought for what the flag represents.

    Villanueva chose to respect the country he fought to defend and does not owe anyone an apology. As the sale of gear shows, most people in this country view him as the definition of an American hero, and that’s exactly what he is.

    I also think about what Pat Tillman would have done in this case and I think that he would have stood alone if that’s what it took to show his respect for the country he gave his life to defend.

  53. This is why politics and sports don’t mix. These protests don’t “unite” anyone. All they do is turn people against one another.teammates turn against teammates. Coaches throw players under a bus. Even fans turn against their own teams and boo them. Enough is enough. Let’s not have another week of this nonsense.

    ——

    The POTUS called them all SOBS and galvanized players against his divisive rhetoric. He has elevated this to where it is now and only Trump is at fault for this exploding over the weekend whether you want to believe it or not. All those Patriots kneeling how do you feel about it.

    Even Tom Brady came out saying he was against what Trump said. What now?

  54. How can I in good conscience continue to patronize the NFL when an army veteran is scolded for honoring his country as he should and then later feels compelled (or was compelled?) to apologize for it?

    I have three words for the NFL:

    SHAME ON YOU!

  55. This is some of the anguish that comes when in a free society with First Amendment rights for all, people have differing opinions. Hear that Mr President? Americans are FREE and dictating one response is almost assured to bring the opposite. God bless Freedom of Individual Expression in America.

  56. Really? According to Alejandro Villanueva, Mike Tomlin was the only coach in the NFL who reached out to him and the only reason he reached out and gave him a chance was because he was a veteran. But all the people on here are ripping Tomlin to shreds and claiming he forced Villanueva to apologize and all the other BS people say when they haven’t bothered listening to the man and just want to feed the coach to the dogs because they don’t like him.

    The Philadelphia Eagles were the first team to pick Villanueva up…because he was a veteran. He was with the team for 4 months until they released him.

  57. Mike Tomlin is an extremely overrated coach, who won a Super Bowl with Bill Cowher players. He should trade or cut Villanueva because he doesn’t deserve to be his coach. Tomlin is a candy ass coward.

  58. Since yesterday I’ve been reading thru a lot of the comments and everyone has been giving there personal feelings about the NFL protest BUT with the exception of Shannon Sharpe I still have yet to here anyone talk about a solution what the initial protest was all about. You would think that a “PEACEFUL” protest would be looked upon as a good way of getting your point across but I guess not. A since when did Coach Tomlin come up with the idea keep his keep in the TUNNEL not the locker room? It was a TEAM decision and I have yet to hear/read any member of the Steelers team give Alejandro Villanueva a hard time because he stood a little too far out of the tunnel. a lot of you closed minded FOOLS need to just shut up!!!

  59. Sorry AV, in today’s world you are not allowed to have your own opinion. Shameful that this man of honor was shamed into now throwing himself under the bus rather than be seen opposing the false narrative of the kneelers and sitters.

  60. If Trumpie had his way, the player would be on his way to Spain:

    Donald Trump said that he doesn’t think people born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants are American citizens.

    “I don’t think they have American citizenship and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers — and I know some will disagree — but many of them agree with me and you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship. We have to start a process where we take back our country. Our country is going to hell,” the Republican presidential front-runner said Tuesday night in an interview on Fox News.

    Trump added he would “test it out” in the courts.

    Birthright citizenship: Can Donald Trump change the Constitution?

    Trump has called for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants living in the United States — allowing the “good ones” to return through an expedited legal process.

    “What happens is they’re in Mexico, they’re going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby — (the lawyers are) saying it’s not going to hold up in court,” Trump said.

    Trump announced in his immigration policy proposal released Sunday that he wants to end birthright citizenship — preventing future undocumented immigrants from giving birth to an American citizen simply by virtue of being born on U.S. soil.

  61. vegasdestroyer says:
    September 26, 2017 at 9:07 am
    If Trumpie had his way, the player would be on his way to Spain:

    Donald Trump said that he doesn’t think people born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants are American citizens.

    “I don’t think they have American citizenship and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers — and I know some will disagree — but many of them agree with me and you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship. We have to start a process where we take back our country. Our country is going to hell,” the Republican presidential front-runner said Tuesday night in an interview on Fox News.

    Trump added he would “test it out” in the courts.

    Birthright citizenship: Can Donald Trump change the Constitution?

    Trump has called for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants living in the United States — allowing the “good ones” to return through an expedited legal process.

    “What happens is they’re in Mexico, they’re going to have a baby, they move over here for a couple of days, they have the baby — (the lawyers are) saying it’s not going to hold up in court,” Trump said.

    Trump announced in his immigration policy proposal released Sunday that he wants to end birthright citizenship — preventing future undocumented immigrants from giving birth to an American citizen simply by virtue of being born on U.S. soil.
    _____________________________________

    FINALLY!! Thanks for the good news, buddy.

  62. x101100111001111x says:
    September 26, 2017 at 5:41 am
    Really? According to Alejandro Villanueva, Mike Tomlin was the only coach in the NFL who reached out to him and the only reason he reached out and gave him a chance was because he was a veteran. But all the people on here are ripping Tomlin to shreds and claiming he forced Villanueva to apologize and all the other BS people say when they haven’t bothered listening to the man and just want to feed the coach to the dogs because they don’t like him.
    __________________________________________________________________________

    There are several answers to these accusations. I’ll give a couple:

    1. We’re not stupid, no matter how much you might wish we were
    2. We can think for ourselves and read between the lines based on Tomlin’s presser blowup and Harrison’s statements.

    You can figure out the rest for yourself, bub.

  63. Yes, ringheadcrusher, you can read between the lines … meaning you’d already mapped out this scenario in your head and why let anything Villanueva say about the events as they occurred change your thinking? In fact, why even bother listening to his press conference? You’re not stupid? You’re right, I can figure that out for myself.

  64. Thank you for wearing a REAL uniform AV.
    Beautiful weather forecasted again this Sunday – I will be outside enjoying it, not watching the NFL again this week. This is MY protest.

  65. Tomlin – Ha! I remember that clown stepping onto the field during a game to trip a player. He’s a joke.

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