Ben Roethlisberger, the longtime quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, said that he regrets the team’s much-derided move to not appear on the field during the national anthem last Sunday, adding that the team will most likely stand for the anthem in future games.
The two-time Super Bowl champion wrote on his personal website that he “was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the National Anthem yesterday.”
The Steelers didn’t come out on the field during the national anthem in a move that many saw as an attempt to boycott the anthem. Two other teams, the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks, also didn’t appear on the field during the anthem in a later game on Sunday.
In a statement to fans on Tuesday, the Steelers organization wrote that “the intentions of the Steelers players were to stay out of the business of making political statements by not taking the field,” adding that it wasn’t meant to be a “boycott of the anthem” and that was “never our players’ intention.”
“The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting,” Roethlisberger said on the website in a personal statement.
“As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.”
“I know I want to be on the field, Cam wants to be on the field, and the guys in that locker room want to be on the field,” he said, reported ESPN.
After a team meeting on Monday, Roethlisberger and Steelers’ Cam Heyward said that the team will stand for the anthem on the field moving forward.
“We will be on the field in Baltimore,” he said on a Twitter video.
— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) September 25, 2017
The team decided to stay indoors at Soldier Field tunnel in Chicago before the game. The lone Steeler, Alejandro Villanueva, to stand outside the tunnel backpedaled on his choice to stand.
“It’s a very embarrassing part on my end,” Villanueva told ESPN. “When everyone sees images of me standing by myself, everybody thinks the team and the Steelers are not behind me and that is absolutely wrong. It’s quite the opposite.”
Villanueva said that he wasn’t making a statement, adding that there was miscommunication.
Roethlisberger estimated that Steelers players were about 20 feet behind Villanueva.
“I regret not going down to Al, but Al didn’t know that we weren’t there,” Roethlisberger added. “Al thought we were standing with him. There was no division there. … It was just the way it appeared through pictures.”