There isn’t a lot going on in the world of football right now. There is a lot going on around the country, however. Combine those two factors, and you know it’s inevitable that they will intersect. A football media bereft of football content will seek to create alternative content by asking football people to weigh in on non-football subjects.
That’s what happened last week when Alejandro Villanueva, a military war veteran, was a surprise guest on The Cook and Joe Show on The Fan. Villanueva is a regular guest on the show, and he called in as a surprise for Cook, while he was driving in the car with Maurkice Pouncey.
While Villanueva’s comments when asked to weigh in on Drew Brees’ statements on protesting during the national anthem made the headlines, in large part because he was a national headline during the height of the controversy in 2017, I thought Pouncey’s comments were interesting, too, because he pretty much made it clear that he’s changed his opinions since then.
During the 2017 season, while the President was telling the NFL that they should fire players who kneel, many players around the league responded by protesting. On the Wednesday before the Week Four game after the controversy the week before against the Chicago Bears, he said, “I care about the flag dearly. Trust me, this team will be out there standing.”
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin demanded that the team present a united front in that Week Three game in Chicago, so they had a player meeting to decide what their response would be. There were mixed opinions in the locker room, but the veterans won out in saying that there would be no kneeling.
Flashforward a few years. When asked about his thoughts now, he told Cook, “a lot of us were wrong. But it’s okay to accept that we were wrong and said the wrong thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. I guarantee you that much. That’s the thing”.
“We cannot change the narrative on what people are saying, on what the reason was. That’s the one thing that bothers me when the narrative is changed. Whenever someone puts a narrative out there, someone puts their own narrative with it”.
“We’re just saying how the narrative swings to it being about the military”, he added—again, noting that Villanueva is in the car right next to him as he says this. “It’s not about that. That’s how the people are trying to say”.
“Police brutality. When people are saying it’s about the army and the flag, it’s just not right. Times are changed now, and people are seeing some of the true colors of America”. At a later point in the interview, after Villanueva declined to give his opinion”, he chimed in of his teammate, “I spoke for him; he feels like me”.
It’s still the early days of June and we’re not going to see football for another couple of months. Tensions are at an incredible fever pitch right now. I’m sure if there was a game to be played tomorrow, a ton of players would be taking a knee. In September? In a hopefully very different climate? We can only wait and find out.