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West Deer homeowner removes Steelers banner he spray-painted with swastika

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, 2:33 p.m.
West Deer resident Anton Uhl expressed his displeasure with the Pittsburgh Steelers not taking the field during the playing of the national anthem on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, by painting a swastika over a Steelers banner in his yard. He has since removed the banner.
West Deer resident Anton Uhl expressed his displeasure with the Pittsburgh Steelers not taking the field during the playing of the national anthem on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, by painting a swastika over a Steelers banner in his yard. He has since removed the banner.

A West Deer man has taken down a Steelers banner he spray-painted with a red swastika from his front yard, but he's not apologizing for what he did.

“I made my point,” Anton Uhl said Wednesday.

Uhl, a retired police officer and Army veteran, said he was wrong for singling out just the Steelers in showing his and his wife's displeasure with the team's decision not to take the field Sunday for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I was wrong in singling out just the Steelers,” Uhl said. “That's why I took down the flag. In my opinion, the swastika should be on the uniforms of all the players that want to protest during the national anthem. They're spreading hatred. They're not uniting anyone. All they're doing is dividing other people.”

Uhl said he hung the banner in the front yard of his Christine Drive home because he was very upset that the Steelers did not come onto the field for the national anthem.

“It was a very big disservice to all the veterans and the millions of soldiers that died in battle defending that flag,” he said. “I don't think that the Steelers had any right not to come out and honor that flag and the anthem.”

Uhl said he took the banner down Tuesday night and threw it away.

“The reason why I chose the swastika is because it's the universal symbol of hatred,” he said. “In my opinion, the NFL players that are not respecting the flag, taking the knee or not coming out, they're spreading that hatred. That was something that symbolized their hatred by putting that on the Steelers flag.”

Rich Bartkoski, who lives nearby on Christine Drive, said he saw the swastika on the banner and thought it was “a little severe.”

Bartkoski said he doesn't know Uhl all that well.

“It's his property. He can do whatever he wants,” he said. “This is a country where everyone has a right to say what they think.”

But, he said, “Equating the Steelers with Nazis is really kind of bad. Nazis were evil.

“I don't know what that has to do with the Steelers.”

Sitting or kneeling during the national anthem as a sign of protest over racial inequality and police brutality was started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

More than 200 NFL players sat or kneeled Sunday during the anthem in response to President Trump's call for owners to fire players who protest.

Uhl said he voted for Trump but says Trump is not “presidential” through his comments on Twitter. He said Trump has good ideas but doesn't know how to present them.

Uhl said players have the right to protest, but not when they're in uniform.

“If they wanted a protest, if they disagree with President Trump, what they should do as a unit is unite all the teams, go in uniform with all the owners, go down to Washington and march against whatever they're protesting,” he said. “If that's the case, I'm sure they'll get a lot of followers and I, myself, will go down and march with them.

“To do it in the form of which they're doing is wrong,” he said. “They're disgracing themselves, they're disgracing the flag, and they're doing a disservice to all the veterans.”

On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II tried to clear up what he called a “misperception” about the team's actions before Sunday's kickoff.

Rooney said players never intended to boycott the national anthem.

“The intentions of Steelers players were to stay out of the business of making a political statement by not taking the field,” Rooney said in a statement posted on the team's website. “Unfortunately, that was interpreted as a boycott of the anthem — which was never our players' intention.”

All of the teams' players except left tackle Alejandro Villanueva remained in the Soldier Field tunnel during the national anthem before Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bears, prompting massive fallout from fans on both sides of the issue.

Uhl wasn't buying the various explanations.

“I think it's a bunch of bull,” he said. “They tried to stay out of the whole limelight by staying in the tunnel. It didn't work. It backfired on them.

“We'll see what happens with the next game.”

Staff writer Tony LaRussa contributed to this report. Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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