Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin Rips Player for Standing, Fired for National Anthem Protest-Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin ripped Alejandro Villanueva, a veteran and former Army Ranger, for electing not to protest during the National Anthem with the rest of his team.
Another rumor suggests that Mike Tomlin was fired after his team declined to take the field for the National Anthem on September 24, 2017, in protest of racial inequality.
Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t “rip” Alejandro Villanueva for not protesting the National Anthem with the rest of his team — and Tomlin wasn’t fired for the team-wide demonstration on September 24th.
These rumors about Mike Tomlin are just the latest fallout from President Trump calling on NFL owners to fire the “sons of bitches” that kneel during the National Anthem in protest of racial inequality during a rally in Alabama. Following the president’s remarks, NFL teams — including the Pittsburgh Steelers — responded with team-wide demonstrations during the National Anthem before NFL games on September 24th.
Every member of the Steelers team — except Alejandro Villanueva — stood in the tunnel for the National Anthem before the team’s game against the Chicago Bears. Villanueva, a veteran, stood just outside the tunnel with his hand on his chest.
The team-wide protest has sparked many rumors — including a false rumor that each member of the team was fined $1 million for the demonstration. Claims about Tomlin “ripping” Villanueva and Tomlin being fired for leading the demonstration soon followed.
Before the game, Tomlin said, “Whatever we do we’re going to do 100%, we’re going to do together. We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) September 24, 2017
When Villanueva didn’t take part in the demonstration, some speculated that he had defied Tomlin. And Breitbart was among the publications advancing the idea that Tomlin “ripped” Villanueva for not taking part in the demonstration after the game, citing a snippet from Tomlin’s post-game interview:
When answering questions from reporters after the game, Tomlin seemed to rap Villanueva, repeating the claim that the team was looking for “100% participation,”
Tomlin said, “Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team.”
Tomlin’s full comments, however, reveal that he didn’t single out Villanueva and said players shouldn’t be forced to choose to take part or take sides on the matter:
“People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t have to 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 going to be 100 percent. We came here to play a football game. That’s our intent.”
Later, Villanueva issued an apology, saying that he had unintentionally thrown his teammates and coach under the bus by standing for the anthem, and that he respects the rights of players to protest during it, USA Today reports:
“Unfortunately, I threw (my teammates) under the bus, unintentionally,” he said. “Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed.
“We as a team tried to figure it out. Obviously we butchered it. … I’m not gonna pretend I have some kind of righteous voice.”
“I will support all my teammates, and all my teammates and all my coaches have always supported me,” said Villanueva, who went undrafted in 2010, when he began serving his active duty commitment after graduating from West Point.
For his part, Tomlin said that no apology from Villanueva was necessary, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:
Tomlin said Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, has no reason to apologize for coming out toward the field for the anthem while his teammates stood back in the tunnel. Villanueva said he felt as though he threw his teammates “under the bus” by not standing with them.
“Al’s got a unique story,” Tomlin said. “It’s a shame to put him in that position because he is a team guy and has always been a team guy. We work very hard to be united as a team when things are aimed at us.”
Given all that, it’s clear that Tomlin didn’t single out or “rip” Villanueva for standing during the National Anthem.
And reports that Mike Tomlin was fired in response to the team’s demonstration are also false. Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II hasn’t said much about the debate, but he did issue a statement after the team’s demonstration:
Aside from that statement, the Steelers’ front office has not taken any action against Tomlin or clarified its position on the matter. Given that, claims that Tomlin was fired are false.