Pittsburgh Steelers Stay Off Field During Anthem

By Jay Busbee

The Steelers’ choice to abstain from participating in the national anthem comes as a response to Trump’s escalating vendetta against players who have knelt during the anthem to protest racism. Trump reiterated his call on Sunday morning for fans to boycott the NFL if the league did not “fire or suspend” players who protested during the anthem.

Players on other NFL teams used other gestures to either protest racism during the playing of the national anthem, or show solidarity with those who were. Nearly all of the Bears players locked arms on the field while standing when the anthem was played, as did many members of the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions.

Several members of the New England Patriots knelt during the national anthem, and the entire team, including quarterback Tom Brady, locked arms in a display of solidarity. Brady endorsed Trump during the presidential campaign. In April, he declined to attend a White House event celebrating the Patriots’ Super Bowl win, however, citing “personal family matters.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers are sidestepping Sunday’s burgeoning anthem controversy entirely by staying in the locker room during the national anthem.

Speaking to the NFL on CBS’s Jamie Erdahl, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made his team’s perspective clear.

“It’s about us remaining solid,” he said. “We’re not going to be divided by anything said … We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”

Tomlin stressed that this was not a matter of disrespecting the anthem or the ideals it represents, but rather of remaining solid as a team in a pursuit of a single goal.

Protests during the anthem have been a staple of NFL conversation since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in the 2016 preseason, seeking to bring attention to issues of police brutality and racial injustice. At an Alabama rally Friday night, President Donald Trump called for the firing of any player who knelt during the anthem, but that only galvanized support for the right to protest in both front offices and locker rooms across the NFL.

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