Pittsburgh Steelers fans are taking action against Steelers merchandise sellers after the team’s botched reply to the NFL’s protests against the country seen during the league’s Week 3 games.
There are conflicting ideas on just what the Steelers intended to do during last Sunday’s game. The team voted to keep back, hidden in the tunnel between the locker room and the field. So that the players wouldn’t have to choose between protesting and standing in honor of the national anthem.
By some highly suspicious and curious set of circumstances, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva came out of the tunnel anyway to stand on the field all by himself, hand over heart, as the anthem played.
Fans hailed Villanueva as the only patriotic member of the team after he stood for the anthem. However, the next day coach Tomlin ripped Villanueva for daring to stand at attention for the song.
It wasn’t long before the player was seen standing before the cameras, apologizing for going against his teammates. Villanueva claimed he “unintentionally” walked out to stand for the anthem.
This messy situation has enraged Steelers fans. A store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is feeling the backlash—and even threats—from infuriated fans who no longer want to support the Steelers.
Susan Moedinger, the owner of Steel City Sports, told Penn Live that customers had informed her that they are boycotting her store because of what the Steelers did last Sunday.
Saying that the whole situation has “mystified” her, Moedinger said she hopes fans don’t boycott her store because she can’t control want players do. “I have nothing to do with it,” she said of the protests.
A boycott of vendors like herself, Moedinger said, makes no sense because the NFL won’t be hurt if her little store loses sales.
“We are getting that pushback… we’d like to see people come back and shop here and not take it out on me, find another way to express their concern and opinion,” she said of the boycott of Steelers merchandiser. “The NFL is not going to be hurt, Nike is not going to be hurt, nobody is going to be hurt in this, they’re too big. But it could hurt me drastically. I’m just a private business.”
While it is easy to have sympathy for this small business owner, she is still selling items from a team increasingly seen as un-American. As fans react with their wallets, she will naturally lose business whether she wants to and whether she thinks it is fair or not:
Moedinger ended with a misplaced plea for fans to keep sports politics free.
“This is a game. We need, in this country, to keep sport sport. And not let that be over politicized and divide us. It’s totally unnecessary,” she said.
Perhaps the players and the NFL should listen to her.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.