Ben Roethlisberger regrets Steelers anthem protest

Pittsburgh Steelers Alejandro Villanueva army vet west point grad

Steelers don't participate in national anthem, with exception of ex-Ranger Alejandro Villanueva

However offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, a West Point graduate who served in the U.S. Army, was present for the anthem prior to the team's game against the Chicago Bears with other coaches and teammates in the tunnel.

President Donald Trump's weekend remarks about the league and the players who protest the anthem sparked a Sunday of NFL demonstrations during the anthem.

Earlier Monday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said the team agreed in a players-only meeting late Saturday night that the team would stay in the tunnel for the anthem as a show of team unity.

However, there have been arguments made that protesting during the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" is disrespectful to the flag, the anthem and those who have served.

Villanueva said he feels "embarrassed" every time he sees "that picture of me standing by myself". He says that wasn't his intention.

"Unfortunately, I threw (my teammates) under the bus, unintentionally".

Villanueva still believes in standing for the anthem, but also said he understands that players are kneeling due to social injustices, not out of criticism toward the military or disrespect for the flag.

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When asked about the one player who refused to cooperate, Alejandro Villanueva, Tomlin's reiterated he was "looking for 100% participation". "We will plan to be on the field this week in Baltimore".

Though Tomlin appeared to not agree with Villanueva's decision, he said the team "will not be divided by this".

Chris Hubbard said there had been an exception granted for Villanueva, however. The bronze star recipient came out with his hand over his heart while the anthem played. It's quite the opposite, actually the entire team would have been out there with me even the ones that wanted to take a knee would have been out there with me had they known these extreme circumstances that at Soldier Field in the heat of the moment when I've got soldiers, wounded veterans texting me that I have to be out there. Or as a team do you start moving halfway through the national anthem? "I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only".

According to, Villanueva's action caught teammates by surprise - as it had been voted on a day earlier, and decided by a slim majority that the team would remain in the locker room.

"I just felt like I wish that we would have been on the field", Roethlisberger said. "We were concerned about staying together, unifying as one", Heyward said.

Tomlin called Commissioner Roger Goodell on Sunday morning and told him of the team's decision.

"I want to make it very clear that we support our troops, we support the people that defend this country, that have lost their lives, that are still now supporting this country", Roethlisberger said.

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