There might be an awful lot of returned #78 jerseys in the next couple weeks.
Alejandro Villanueva, the Steelers tackle who famously stood alone on the field for the playing of the national anthem on Sunday while the rest of his team stayed inside the tunnel, has now revealed that he actually intended to remain in the tunnel with his fellow players.
Villanueva said on Monday, “Unfortunately I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally. Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself I feel embarrassed.”
Villanueva’s explanation for his appearance on the field, is that he had asked to stand in front of the team with the captains. However, he didn’t stop when he got to the front of the tunnel. Instead, he walked out where he ended up in full-view of fans and cameras.
Villanueva also took a moment to defend his coach, Mike Tomlin, who came under fire for being critical of Villanueva in a post-game press conference. The Ranger and three tour Afghan veteran said, “For anybody who thinks Coach Tomlin is not as patriotic as you can get in America, I’m offended by that.”
Villanueva’s #78 jersey had ballooned up to become the highest-selling jersey in the league on Monday, based on the premise that he had defied his team’s wishes and chosen to come stand for the national anthem.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wrote on his personal website, that he wasn’t able to sleep Sunday night. Consumed by the idea that that the Steelers should have not handled the anthem protest the way they did. Saying that it presented a disorganized and inconsistent front. Roethlisberger says he wished the Steelers had, “approached it differently.”
Villanueva was awarded the Bronze Medal for Valor during his service in the Army.
The video of his press conference can be seen here.