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Roethlisberger Says He Regrets Steelers' Anthem Absence As Villanueva Jersey Sales Soar

Nam Y. Huh
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva (78) stands outside the tunnel alone during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Chicago.

Jersey sales for Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva peaked Monday on at least two fan websites after he alone opted to stand on field during the national anthem in Chicago on Sunday.

Sales for Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva's jersey hit a high mark Monday after he opted to stand outside the tunnel during the singing of the national anthem.

Shopping lists on both and showed the former Army Ranger and Bronze Star recipient’s No. 78 jersey among the Steelers’ top sellers for men, women and youths.

Villanueva held his hand over his heart during the national anthem Sunday before the Steelers took on the Bears in Chicago. Fellow players stood a few feet back inside the tunnel with only coaches and staff taking their usual places on the field.

More than 200 NFL players kneeled, locked arms or raised their fists before their respective games after President Donald Trump said at a rally in Alabama on Friday that NFL team owners should fire players who demonstrate during the anthem.

Read more about Trump’s history with the NFL here and here.

Protests during the anthem began last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick repeatedly kneeled to protest racial injustice, particularly police violence against men and women of color.

Coach Mike Tomlin said before the game Sunday that the show of solidarity would be a team decision, though quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Monday he regretted the move.

“It was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem,” Roethlisberger wrote on his website. “I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest.”

Defensive end Cameron Heyward said after the game that he stood by the choice.

“For one person to call shame on multiple people and say we should lose our jobs because we care, that’s just not right,” Heyward said. “The main thing we have to gain from this is, it isn’t just one day. We’re out in the community, we’re trying to make changes, not only by one person, but as a team.”

Trump’s weekend rebuke of the NFL wasn’t isolated.

He also revoked a standing White House invitation for the reigning NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, after star Steph Curry and coach Steve Kerr indicated they weren’t sure they would attend. Both have been openly critical of Trump and his policies.

The president confirmed Monday, also via Twitter, that the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins are still welcome.