On Sunday, the Steelers were one of three teams—along with the Titans and Seahawks—who opted not to stand on the sideline during the national anthem in response to Donald Trump's attempt to generate cheap applause at an Alabama campaign rally on Friday.
The lone exception for Pittsburgh was offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who earned a Bronze Star during his three tours of duty in Afghanistan, and who stood just outside the team tunnel with his right hand over his chest during the traditional pre-game playing of the song.
It appears Villanueva already regrets his decision. In a press conference held on Monday, the Steelers offensive lineman admitted he feels embarrassed for standing during the national anthem prior to Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears. "Unfortunately I threw my teammates under the bus, unintentionally,” he said, per CBS Pittsburgh. “Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself I feel embarrassed."
"I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault, and my fault only," Villanueva said. "We as a team tried to figure it out, but obviously butchered it." The former Army Ranger also came out in support of his teammates' decision to protest. "People that are taking a knee are not saying anything negative about the military, they’re not saying anything negative about the flag, they’re just trying to protest that there are some injustices in America," he added.
And yet, 24 hours after the 29-year-old offensive tackle decided to stand, his gear (which includes: jerseys and "name and number T-shirts") have become the top sellers out of the NFL's online store. In order to ascend to the peak position Villanueva bounced Tom Brady, and also out-drew other top selling quarterbacks: Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, and Aaron Rodgers.
Last year, when Colin Kaepernick first decided to kneel, Villanueva told ESPN, "I don't know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that's providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year ... when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year."
However, during that same interview, he also added that he supported Kaepernick's core cause. "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, inequalities in pay,” he explained.