Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin sounds like a man that wants never to revisit this issue again regarding his team.
He’s got work to do coaching a professional football team, so Tuesday’s press conference could be seen as a ‘lets get this noise out of the way’ type of statement.
Tomlin spent the majority of the Tuesday session explaining his take on the protests that happened not only with his team, but across the league on Sunday, per NFL.com:
“In regards to the anthem, these are divisive times,” Tomlin said. “I’ve been very proud that our team has always been a team that has always been very respectful of the anthem. We’ve had 100 percent participation in the anthem since all of these things started. Obviously our guys have opinions regarding social injustice and so forth, but they never used that as a platform. We’re a group that’s not interested in making statements. We’re a group that’s interested in making impacts. Things that we feel strongly about, we give up ourselves and our free time particularly. Tuesday is a big day for that. It has been for us and our guys are in the community as we speak. They have been. Things that theyâre passionate about, they’re involved in. I’m sure their communities can attest to that.
“When we step into a stadium to play, we’re there for those reasons. It’s also another reason why I believe our group has never participated in anthem demonstrations. We have a former serviceman on our team in Villanueva. And regardless of how guys have felt in the past, whether they’ve had a desire to do it or not, the respect for the anthem, the respect that they have for Al as a brother, has made those demonstrations zero. So it’s never been an issue for us.”
“Last week some comments were made where that probably would have been breached,” Tomlin continued. “There were some guys within our group that felt strongly because of the comments made a week ago. We’ve always had 100 percent participation, so that created an issue for us. In the past, those that had maybe wanted to participate have not. They felt a little differently, and I thought it created an opportunity for the team to discuss. On Saturday night, I told the team whatever it is that you do, you do it together. One-hundred percent participation, or you do nothing. We do business as usual. We won’t let divisive times divide us.”
On Alejandro Villanueva’s decision to stand outside of the tunnel and salute the flag:
“Al, obviously, has a unique story. Man, we respect Al. We respect the things that have gone on with him. When they expressed their desire to stand in the tunnel, and not be on the field in an effort to not take part in any of the politics, he said, ‘Can I get toward the front so that I can see and protect the anthem?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ Al, logistically, the team is going to be in the tunnel, the captains are going to be in the front because logistically we’ve got to get out and deal with the toss anyway. Somehow that was perceived as divisive. It’s a shame to put Al in that position because, man, he is a team guy. And he’s always been a team guy, as are most of our guys, man. We work extremely hard to be united, particularly in things that are aimed at dividing us.”