Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said in a pregame interview with CBS that his team will not be on the field during the national anthem, in what he says is a gesture of unity that eliminates the individual players’ decisions of whether to sit, kneel, or stand during the anthem.
“Whatever we do, we’re going to do 100 percent. We’re going to do it together,” Tomlin said. “People shouldn’t have to choose.”
It’s notable to see this decision, prompted by protests during the anthem against police brutality directed towards black Americans, come from a team with one of the NFL’s few black head coaches. The Steelers are also the team of Alejandro Villanueva, a U.S. Army veteran who has been critical of anthem protests (along with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger) in the past.
While Tomlin’s stated intent is to remove his team from the protests, it’s hard not to see skipping the anthem entirely as an escalation of what’s already been done. Several players on the Jaguars and Ravens already kneeled during the anthem in London earlier today.