Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva has unwillingly been in the national media spotlight the last several days thanks to him being out front of the rest of his teammates during Sundays pregame national anthem. Since that happened, the former Army captain’s merchandise has reportedly been flying off the internet shelves and that in turn will reportedly help out several non-profit organizations.
In case you didn’t already know it, NFL players receive proceeds from their jersey and apparel retail sales and according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Villanueva is donating all his proceeds to USO and other military non-profits, just as he’s always done.
During his Monday press conference in which he talked openly about what happened during the Sunday pregame National Anthem, Villanueva was told that he currently has one of the highest selling jerseys in the NFL right now and that some people are treating him as a hero. He was essentially asked what he thinks about those people putting him up on a proverbial pedestal right now following what transpired ahead of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears and because of certain pictures of him being out front of his teammates are circulating.
“It’s completely wrong and every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself I feel embarrassed to a degree, because again, like I said, unintentionally I left my teammates behind,” Villanueva said. “It wasn’t me stepping forward. I never planned to boycott the plan that the Steelers came up with. I just thought there would be some middle-ground where I can stand in the tunnel, nobody would see me, and then afterwards I just wouldn’t talk to the media like I do all the time. I will avoid guys. I’ll shower and bring my clothes and never address you guys and two weeks later you guys would be talking about something else. And so I thought that was in my head that what was going to happen.”
The Steelers starting left tackle, who signed a four year contract worth $24 million this past July, went on to talk about how he’s not currently a fan of all the attention he’s receiving from the media.
“You guys know me for the guys that come into the locker room all the time, I hate attention,” Villanueva said. “I don’t like it. I will give you clichés so you guys will leave me alone but when it comes to this, it’s a difficult situation and I don’t like the attention. And at the end of the day, the reason, whether I want it or not, whether it was my intended plan or not, the reason that I went out there by myself is the reason that is causing all of this distress and is making the organization look bad, my coach look bad, and my teammates look bad. And for anybody who thinks that Coach [Mike] Tomlin is not as patriotic as you can get in America or anyone of my teammates or the owner, I take offense to that. So that is kind of how I feel when I see myself standing alone in the national anthem.”
As things turn out, according to not only Villanueva, but several other of his teammates and head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers tackle was accidentally separated from the rest of his teammates just seconds before the National Anthem started.
“I asked Ben [Roethlisberger] if there was a way to define the inside or where we going to stay and if I could watch the national anthem from the tunnel,” Villanueva said Monday. “He agreed. He said the captains would be out there right behind me and so this plan sort of morphed to accommodate this tough moral dilemma that I had in my hands to where the players could be behind me in the tunnel. Ben Roethlisberger said at :56, make sure you’re out there because the national anthem is going to start at :57. I walked out at 12:56. I asked one of the security guards when the National Anthem was going to start and he said 20-seconds and so I just walked up and I stopped as soon as I saw the flag, as soon as I had a vantage point. That to me was enough.
“There was a flag that was coming in from one of the previous celebrations and when I turned around to sort of signal everybody else to come and so they wouldn’t leave me alone, then that’s when they were essentially unable to exit. At that moment, it was the decision of do you walk out of the national anthem and join your teammates, I know that would have looked extremely bad. Or as a team do you start moving halfway through the national anthem. So, essentially what we can get out of this is that we butchered our plan to sort of have a response for the national anthem and respect everyone’s opinions.”