Three days after the Pittsburgh Steelers unintentionally entangled themselves in the ongoing national anthem controversy by remaining in the stadium tunnel during the anthem at a game in Chicago, center Maurkice Pouncey announced the team intends to “make it right” next time.
“I promise you one thing this week: We’ll all be standing out there for the national anthem,” he said after practice Wednesday. “Trust me. We respect our flag and we respect the military.”
Regarding what happened Sunday, he claimed it was just a “big misunderstanding.”
“Trust me, I’m very sorry to anyone who feels the way they do,” he said. “I care about the flag dearly. Trust me, this team will be out there standing Sunday.”
The team’s decision Sunday to remain in the tunnel came in response to an ongoing controversy surrounding statements made by President Donald Trump at a rally in Alabama last Friday.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects the flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—h off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump had said, referencing protests by certain NFL players upset by what they perceive to be racial injustice in America’s criminal justice system.
This remark wound up triggering widespread backlash, with numerous players and team owners across the NFL mounting a joint effort to rebuke the president by joining the protests against the national anthem.
In a bid to avoid becoming involved in this controversy, all members of the Pittsburgh Steelers except one decided to skip taking part in the anthem ceremony Sunday. Only offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, appeared on the field.
Villanueva later apologized for taking a lone stand, expressing remorse for having thrown his teammates “under the bus.”
Likewise, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger released his own statement expressing regret over what happened.
“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,” he said. “We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting.”
— KAYA (@KayaJones) September 25, 2017
In his own statement Wednesday, Pouncey made it clear that when his team stands up for the national anthem at its next game, he expects “100 percent participation” from all players.
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