Every Pittsburgh Steelers player stayed in the locker room during the national anthem today (September 24) before their game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
Only coaches from the Steelers, including Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, were on the field during the anthem.
Tomlin told CBS that during our country’s political turmoil, he wants his team to stick together and not let anything divide them.
"These are very divisive times for our country," Tomlin said. "For us, as a football team, it's about us remaining solid. We are not gonna be divided by anything said by anyone. That's the thing that I posted to our guys. I said, 'If you feel the need to do anything, I'm going to be supportive of that. As Americans, you have that right.' But whatever we do, we're gonna do 100 percent, we're gonna do together. We're not gonna let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda. This collection of men, we're chasing something here in 2017, and we're not gonna play politics with football players, with football coaches.
"We're not participating in the anthem today,” he continued. “Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn't have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn't be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn't be separated from his teammate who chooses not to. So we're not participating today. That's our decision. We're gonna be 100 percent. We came here to play a football game. That's our intentions, and we're gonna play and play to win."
Russell Simmons didn't seem to think the Steelers' mode of protest was a good one and even called staying in the locker room to protest is "for bitches."
"Locking arms and staying in the locker room hiding is for bitches. I'm sorry I'm so upset WTF. So we not sure if black lives matter," he tweeted. He then followed up with an IG post explaining himself by saying that their protest doesn't count if they're not willing to share it with the world. He likened it to not voting or not revealing who you voted for during an election.
Interestingly, Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva who was an Army Ranger serving in Afghanistan, stood outside of the tunnel but not on the sidelines during the anthem.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter predicted that Sunday would be an “unprecedented” day of protests across the NFL.
Last week, during a rally in Huntsville Alabama, Donald Trump called any player who protests the anthem a “son of a bitch,” claiming they’re dishonoring the flag. It’s most likely the root of an exponential increase in protest during Sunday’s NFL games.