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Steelers fans sound off on anthem controversy

| Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, 10:30 a.m.
The Steelers team stands behind Alejandro Villanueva in the tunnel during the national anthem before the Bears on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IIl.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers team stands behind Alejandro Villanueva in the tunnel during the national anthem before the Bears on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IIl.

Editor's note: Last weekend's intensification of the controversy over NFL players "taking a knee" during the national anthem, which began with remarks by President Trump at an Alabama rally and grew locally, nationally and worldwide among Steeler Nation after all Pittsburgh players except Alejandro Villaneuva stayed out of view during the anthem, prompted a host of letters to the editor. Following are as many of those letters as we could confirm within deadline constraints.


I am deeply upset and offended by the Steelers' decision to remain in the locker room during the national anthem Sept. 24 in Chicago. It was extremely disrespectful and ungrateful to the nation and to those who have laid down and still are laying down their lives for the freedom we all enjoy — something that the NFL, the Steelers organization and the players do not seem to recognize or appreciate.

I have been a loyal and proud Steelers fan for as long as I can remember. I am 63, grew up in Johnstown, lived in Latrobe and served in the Air Force. I did not vote for either Trump or Clinton. I never imagined ever having to withdraw my support, but that day has come. If I were a season ticketholder, I would stay home.

Why should I support the NFL and the Steelers who show more conviction and solidarity against our country than against issues like violence perpetrated by their own players? Is it too much to ask these elite athletes to lay aside their grievances, valid as they may be, for a brief yet solemn ceremony to honor our great, albeit imperfect, country?

D. Edward Anderson

Simpsonville, S.C.


In December 1969, I came home after 12 months and 20 days of serving as a mud Marine in combat in Vietnam. I was spit on in California and called "Nixon's hired butcher." I never forgot that.

On Sept. 24, I saw something I thought I would never see from the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers: disrespect for our flag and our veterans.

Those two events are linked. There is no excuse for what these overpaid prima donnas did. You don't play politics on a football field. You don't disrespect the men and women who have died protecting your right to play football .

Alejandro Villanueva doesn't have to apologize for standing with his hand on his heart while the team hid in the tunnel.

Ben Roethlisberger, your words and Art Rooney's are falling on deaf ears in this house. You should have been on the field, respecting our flag and freedom.

As my momma used to say, "You made your bed, now lay in it."

Alan W. Hornbake Jr.

North Huntingdon

The writer is a retired Marine Corps corporal.


I absolutely support the Steelers' decision to decline to play the faux patriotism games precipitated by President Trump's appalling comments at his Alabama rally.

Trump is out of line, and even if that were not the case, he has absolutely no room to talk about patriotism. He had five Vietnam-era draft deferments, four for college; most telling was his medical deferment for bone spurs. Bone spurs! Many with no money to buy a doctor's excuse served with far greater health concerns. Trump could not even recall which of his little feet had the disqualifying bone spur when the question was posed during the campaign.

Trump is a racist. His supporters are racist. I stood in line at Rite Aid one morning last week while three employees who are well-paid to stack boxes loudly expressed their opinion that "these players are well-paid and should protest on their own time." Irony is dead, apparently.

Karen Shackelford

Hempfield


I have been a Steelers fan for over 50 years, and I was embarrassed by the disgraceful behavior of Coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers organization Sept. 24. Boycotting the national anthem was totally wrong.

God bless Alejandro Villanueva. His courage and self-sacrifice honor America.

The Steelers organization disgraced itself. And only a very public apology will satisfy me.

Richard J. Krauland

O'Hara


To our lone Pittsburgh Steeler who opposed everyone and stood for our anthem and country: no apology needed. You did not let your coach or team down; they let you down. I would be proud to shake your hand and thank you for your service and a job well done.

To Ben Roethlisberger: The actions of you and your teammates speak louder than any words you could have said on Monday morning. It's been said it's about police, racism, social injustice or the words of our president. Why is it OK for all of you to be allowed to voice your free-speech rights, and Donald Trump, whether he be president or an ordinary person, to not be allowed that same right? You protest against him; is that not a double standard?

We have had hurricanes, earthquakes and floods, and Trump donated $1 million of his own money. How much have you donated?

You Steelers show your bling — the bigger the paycheck, the bigger the bling. But what are you doing for social injustice? You cry foul when that yellow scrap of cloth is disrespected by other teams, yet you disgrace our American flag, our anthem and our values, and it's OK?

We should ask all football fans who respect our flag to boycott Steelers games, lower the Terrible Towel, refuse to buy their products and keep silent, just as the team kept silent in the Soldier Field tunnel.

Kathy Gladys

Mt. Pleasant Township


I've been a Steelers fan my entire life and I've raised my three boys to bleed black and gold. Alejandro Villanueva is a true hero. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL are contemptible. I can't wait until they try to put in for a military flyover to open a game or try to sell their "Salute to Service" gear.

My family is done with this. We'll find something else to do on Sundays. We have plenty of other places to spend our money.

Charlie Baker

Moon


I have had it. As an Army veteran who served on active duty for four years in the Vietnam era, I was sickened to the point of revulsion over the Steelers' decision to remain in their locker room during the singing of the national anthem before the Sept. 24 game in Chicago.

This "show of unity" had to have the approval of club management, coaches and players, which only adds to my disgust. (Add Roger Goodell to that list as well.) As one who voluntarily wore the uniform, I view my country's flag and anthem with the utmost respect, not as an object of "protest."

The one rewarding moment in all of this was seeing Alejandro Villanueva, a West Point grad and Army Ranger, leave the tunnel by himself and stand at the entrance, hand over heart, singing the national anthem. God bless him, for he knows what our country's flag stands for, and what the West Point motto is: Duty, Honor, Country.

I have watched my last pro football game, and if the madness and disgrace infiltrate the college ranks or any other level of sports, I'm done with them as well.

I would love to see how much of their time, talents and treasure these "professionals" devote to causes that really promote peace and prosperity for all races, or to support victims of natural disasters, like J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans does. I suspect I already know the answer.

David Reese

Mt. Lebanon


A message to the NFL: Whatever happened to class, dignity and discipline, which defined an NFL football player?

It all starts at the top with the NFL commissioner and owners taking control of their teams and explaining that this is the National Football League.

You can protest all you want after practice, after the game or in the off-season — meaning on your own time.

This is your job. As an employee of the NFL, you are expected to adhere to the rules and traditions of the NFL. You can choose to be a highly compensated NFL player, and you are free to pursue another career choice.

If people in real jobs were to protest during working hours, they would be out the door in a heartbeat.

NFL fans just want to enjoy the games and have some fun. Politics in sports just alienates half the population and will eventually affect NFL popularity in a negative way.

Art Rooney Sr. would not have put up with this. I was a lifelong fan and supporter, but no more until this stops.

Stop this nonsense now!

Barry Porter

Shamong, N.J.

The writer is a Lincoln Place native.


What a black eye for not only the Steelers organization, but the city and its loyal fans. To choose to remain in the tunnel during the rendition of our country's national anthem is a travesty and totally disrespectful to our forefathers and anyone else who served this country to give them the opportunity to play a game, to earn a living.

Granted, they are elite athletes, and in most instances, deserve their salaries.

Being an avid fan and season ticketholder for 30 years, I was appalled at what I saw at, no less, Soldier Field.

Where is the leadership on this team? Tell me that Chuck Noll would have allowed this to happen. Tell me the "Chief," RIP, did not turn over in his grave.

I have totally lost respect for Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Heyward and the supposed leaders of the team. I never had respect for Coach Mike Tomlin. The inmates are running the asylum — great role models for the youth of America.

Stew Brown

Penn Township, Westmoreland County


I hope the NFL gets it where it hurts the most — in the wallet. Time for a boycott of the NFL. Their ratings are already down due to this crap, so let's end it.

Don't get me wrong; I love football. But the Sept. 24 Steelers-Bears game in Chicago, when only one Steelers player (an Army Ranger) came out for the national anthem, was a disgrace.

"Oh, it is such an unfair, racist country," says Mr. Multimillion-dollar Contract With A 16-Weekend Work Schedule — yeah, he's oppressed. When any of them have done what Pat Tillman did, I'll listen to them; until then, unless they do it at an actual protest, shut up and stand there quietly. Or go play for North Korea; see if they're as generous.

Coach Mike Tomlin thought he was doing the right thing, but he only inflamed the situation as far as I'm concerned.

So for fall/winter, it's just Penguins hockey in my house. As for the Jaguars and Ravens before their game in London, since they loved "God Save the Queen," revoke their U.S. citizenship and let them see if they can get contracts with Manchester United to play "football."

Brett Pasquinelli

Hempfield


Politics and sports don't mix.

Two hours before the Sept. 24 game against the Bears, Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said, "These are divisive times in the United States" and "We are not going to play politics." The decision to stay in the locker room during the singing of the national anthem was a slap in the face to every American who ever served, fought or sacrificed their blood to protect this great nation.

Art Rooney II, Steelers majority owner and spokesperson for one of the great sport franchises in America, chose to allow his employees to immerse themselves in the "political correctness" argument of the day rather than perform their job duties as Pittsburgh Steelers.

Leadership and courage demonstrated by Americans and honored by the words penned by Francis Scott Key were disrespected by the Steelers.

John Radomsky

Manassas, Va.

The writer is a native of Hastings, Cambria County.


I have been a fan of the Steelers since the 1950s. I now live in Florida in a 55-or-older community, and we have a large group of Steelers fans. I just switched my cable provider so we could get the NFL sports package and enjoy the Steelers games every week as a group with our Steelers jerseys on, showing our team spirit.

Sept. 24 was our first day as a group, and the Steelers did not participate in the singing of our country's national anthem. Goodbye to you, Steelers; we have decided to find something else to do.

These players should realize that they are actors who are overpaid. The owners need to support our country, and any player who acts like a wounded chicken when he makes a big play (former Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis) should be fined. You are paid to make plays.

I've had it with sports. I see the NFL going the way of NASCAR.

Frank J. Mirenzi

Ft. Pierce, Fla.

The writer is a Tarentum native.


President Trump vs. the NFL? For me, this is an easy choice. I stand with the president because he's correct in his assessment, though his method of relating it seems to be outlandish, as with all of his observations, written or verbal.

Before the season started, I had said that I would not watch the Steelers if any one of them knelt or sat during the national anthem. Well, more than 40 of them refused to stand on the sidelines in respect for the anthem, so my days of being a fan (and I have been a fan since the mid-'60s, when I was a teenager and watched them play at Pitt Stadium) are over. Not only have I lost respect for everyone from owner Art Rooney II on down — with the exception of Alejandro Villanueva — I am deeply ashamed of this football team for its collective gutless stance.

From now on, my fall Sundays will not be spent watching a bunch of overpaid, spoiled brats defy what brave men and women are risking daily to protect. God bless the American soldiers.

Robert Mike

Lower Burrell


There is something wrong with a team's failure to be on the sidelines for the national anthem. I will not watch any games of an NFL team that disrespects the country and its flag.

The Steelers are in violation of the NFL's game operations manual, which states that all players must be on the sidelines for the playing of the national anthem. Failure to be on the field by the start of the anthem may result in discipline such as fines, suspensions and the forfeiture of draft choices, according to the manual.

You can find the names of 26 states in the Lincoln Memorial picture on a $5 bill, listed by date of admission to the union — Delaware, Pennsylvania, etc. Of the 50 stars on the American flag, the second star, upper left, is Pennsylvania's, as they are in the same order.

When someone disrespects the flag in any manner, they are disrespecting our nation, their state, their neighbor, themselves and all those who died for their state and our nation.

William D. Anderson

Hempfield


Regarding the Steelers staying off the field for the national anthem in Chicago: If we did what football and movie stars do, we would be fired.

I work in retail and service. When we were hired, we were taught that we don't discuss politics or religion because we can offend half of our clients.

The protesters get all the attention on TV, but remember, for every protester you see, there are 500,000 non-protesters. In the real world, people help each other in times of need, as you can see with the recent hurricane and earthquake disasters.

Susan Stiles

North Huntingdon


No. 78 (Alejandro Villanueva) is the only member of the entire Pittsburgh Steelers organization who has guts, courage and leadership. The rest are hypocrites who are not leaders but followers. For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of the team that represents my city.

Patrick Erwin

Robinson


What a terrible display of leadership by the Steelers Sept. 24.

I wonder how many VFW and American Legion posts shut their TVs off in response to the insult provided to the veterans and every citizen of the United States. It takes more character to take the high road, and unfortunately, there was only one role model/leader that day. Shame on any fan who sees nothing wrong with what was done.

Everyone should seek out the closest VFW or American Legion post, sing the national anthem before the next game and boycott the games. Empty stadiums will speak more than the Steelers' disgraceful action.

Thomas Pyo

Hempfield


While the game of football is trivial when compared to the world's challenges, tragedies and stooges, the Steelers' continued unfocused, undisciplined, underperforming, poor execution is woeful. Come on, "Stillers" coaches and players — get your heads and spirit in the game.

Give us an entertaining distraction worthy of your extraordinary compensation and presumed talent. Please, no excuses, apologies or clichés. Be selfless. Come together as a team and "git r done"!

Scott Gilchrist

Black Mountain, N.C.

The writer is a Zelienople native.


On one hand, you have Alejandro Villanueva, a decorated hero standing alone in the sun and showing proper respect to our flag and anthem. On the other hand, you have his teammates hiding in the shadows of a tunnel, making him look like the protesting dissident.

Smooth move, Steelers. At the moment, you're a team of one.

Dennis Slupek

Delmont


I was disappointed and disgusted with the disrespect of our national anthem by the Steelers players prior to the Sept. 24 game in Chicago. Just a couple of observations:

• It was a good thing the game was on the road. After the boos were over, there might well have been a mass exodus from Heinz Field if the game had been in the 'Burgh.

• Art Rooney II and Mike Tomlin took a pass by allowing the players to make the decision. Franco Harris was right. Chuck Noll would not have been bothered with that situation. Joe Greene and Jack Lambert would have taken care of it.

• I couldn't help but notice that the sponsors, the players' union, the announcers, the pregame show hosts, the owners, the networks, the commentators and all those others who had their own self-interests at stake backed the NFL's position to permit a player's right to disrespect our national anthem. In doing so, they also disrespected it.

The Steelers had best get things worked out before the next home game, or the protests could turn out to be the proverbial shoe on the other foot.

Ken Mowl

Hempfield


The football players who have seen fit to disrespect our national anthem should remember the opportunity afforded to them to play a child's game.

Most received college or university scholarships, allowing them to advance their careers to the professional level. Perhaps by filling a scholarship spot, they removed any chance for a scholarly young man or woman to obtain one. Who knows what potential may have been dashed? Among them there could have been the next great doctor, scientist or educator who could have gone on to make a profound contribution to the world.

After the game, Coach Mike Tomlin told the press that "my contention was that we would not allow politics (to) divide us." He allowed just that.

In his Sept. 25 column "Steelers' anthem protest potentially divisive," writer Kevin Gorman asked, "(D)o you believe the Steelers whose jerseys you wear and whose touchdowns you celebrate are here simply for your entertainment?" The answer is a resounding "yes." We're not talking about nuclear science here. The fans at home and in the stadium are there for one reason — to be entertained. Nothing more and nothing less.

So, the next time they decide to take a knee in protest, they may want to consider saying a prayer and thanking God for the opportunity that the greatest nation on Earth afforded them.

Ed Liberatore

Turtle Creek


It's a shame that pro football as entertainment has regressed so low that overpaid prima donnas now use their jobs as a forum to express their political views. The Steelers once could pride themselves as a blue-collar team from a city of mixed ethnic groups, but now they can boast of the disgrace and embarrassment they show with their lack of respect for our national anthem, country and flag.

I believe the Steelers have succeeded in permanently damaging a fan base that was global as Coach Mike Tomlin loses control of his overpaid crybabies. If the players don't like the anthem and the flag, they are free to leave and go to Syria. Of course, they won't make millions and might get their throats slit, but they can be seen on international TV.

After their disgusting display of disrespect in Chicago, I cut every Steelers shirt, hat, etc., I had into pieces and sent them via UPS to the Steelers' headquarters, accompanied by photos on Facebook — a fine testament, don't you think? I won't be viewing any more games; after all, over 50 years as a fan is long enough.

Maybe Dan Rooney should have sold out years ago and avoided the embarrassment and disrespect Tomlin has let flourish.

Go, Cowboys.

Jack Juris

Buffalo Township


My father, a Marine Corps corporal, qualified for three Purple Hearts during four campaigns in the Pacific during World War II. The last campaign was Guam; he lost six members of his squad there.

My grandfather was one of two survivors of his company from a three-day artillery barrage in the Meuse-Argonne during World War I. He lost the use of his leg.

The Steelers can't show respect for our country, our flag and the people who gave all to secure our great country? Instead of "Go Steelers," it's going to be "Go to Hell Steelers!" I don't want to be a part of anything they are involved in.

Howard L. McHenry

East Vandergrift


Alejandro Villanueva is a hero in my book. I've heard Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin's comment regarding Villanueva's hand-over-his-heart salute during the national anthem, but what did he expect a West Point graduate and combat veteran to do? Anything less would be dishonorable. Tomlin needs to concentrate on coaching, a task he is failing at.

President Trump waves the flag when it suits his political agenda. Ignore him, and in a little over three years, he will disappear.

The NFL is a profit-oriented monopoly. Anyone who has watched the movie "Concussion" knows how low Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL will go to protect their corporate interests.

The NFL is a watered-down league devoid of talent and trying to justify outrageous salaries. Media giants like ESPN and the news networks need controversy to stay in business. This is all a dog-and-pony show to get viewers to watch.

My father, son and father-in-law are all combat veterans. The flag is honored in our family.

If these overpaid, underperforming clowns in the NFL want to create social change, they should donate their time and sweat to working in the community and their money to projects aimed at creating positive change. I don't want to hear political statements from athletes, singers or actors.

Former NFL star Pat Tillman gave up his lucrative salary and joined the Army because he felt fighting for our country was more important than football. Actions are louder than words. I salute him and those like him who served on the front lines.

I started boycotting the NFL a few years ago. I will shun it even more now.

Bob Bodnar

West Lampeter Township, Lancaster County

The writer is a West Mifflin native.


Well, the bait-and-switch tactic of the current president has worked like a charm — again.

He exclaims, "Hey folks, look over there — those guys are doing bad stuff. We should get them. Don't look at me, because if you did, you might see a privileged, egocentric, greatly opinionated (your choice of noun here). Because all I've done is divide the nation — making neighbors see something bad in their neighbors. I'm telling you again: Don't look at me; look over there."

And we fell for it again, like the advertising-trained sheeple we have all become. How sad.

Who are the losers here? Not the current resident of the White House. Not the football teams in the spotlight.

We are — for losing that precious tool of our First Amendment rights of peaceful protest.

Diane E. Kotvas

West Leechburg


All the media coverage and support that the professional football players are getting is upsetting and sad. It's equally upsetting that our children and most adults look up to these protesting "heroes of the gridiron." What are they protesting? Freedom of speech? Freedom of life, liberty and happiness? Freedom to broadcast their self-entitlement, arrogance and disrespect by "taking a knee" during the national anthem?

It has nothing to do with black or white; it has to do with red, white and blue — the symbol of our nation's strength, unity and protection to all who live under it.

Their actions are not illegal, but more a matter of ethics and respect. Respect for the past, present and future is taught by words and actions. So what are these disrespectful actions teaching besides selfishness, arrogance and ignorance toward those who fought and died, and those who are still fighting, so the players can act like fools?

Could it be that these idiots, not idols, are showing it's all right to use their God-given talent and money to get away with anything, with the idea that they are right? That's a bad lesson for our children, who are in need of real heroes.

It's up to all of us to teach them the importance of respect by our words and actions — to teach then about real heroes and to have respect for themselves, others and our country to help form them into good law-abiding citizens.

Nancy Lapcevich

Monroeville


The Steelers had every right to do what they did Sept. 24. As grown men, they know that actions have consequences. So, now that the consequences have become a reality, it's apparent that these high-priced athletes are out of touch with their fan base.

Ben Roethlisberger said the anthem is not the time to protest, but did it anyway. Mike Tomlin took it one step further by throwing his player under the bus.

Alejandro Villanueva has nothing to be embarrassed about. The entire Steelers organization is the embarrassment. Villanueva will be a Steeler for a short time; he's an American for a lifetime. Were the Steelers really expecting him to choose his short-term commitment to them over his lifelong commitment to his nation?

It's sad to see these same players get upset over the Terrible Towel being disrespected when they disrespect the American flag.

All those choosing to attend the next home game should turn their jerseys inside out and chant "Villanueva" when the team comes out. These other players don't deserve to have their names prominently displayed.

Wouldn't it be great if the Steelers and a Pittsburgh-based company sponsored an American-flag handout for fans to wave instead of the Terrible Towel at the next home game? Steelers, you're welcome for the idea.

I'm not expecting Ben to proudly come running out of the tunnel, carrying the American flag like he did the Rooney flag, but wouldn't that be the hypocritical cherry on top?

Don Rendulic

Penn Township, Westmoreland County


Alejandro Villanueva has nothing to apologize for. He did the right thing on Sept. 24, and sometimes doing the right thing is difficult.

The Steelers organization and the NFL are a national disgrace. It is impossible to put into words how much they disgust me, my family, my neighbors and my friends.

Due to lack of spines and fortitude in Steelers ownership and management, the legacy of a once-honorable football franchise has been trashed. Do these players work for the owners, or do the owners work for the players? Apparently, all of them agree that our flag, the symbol of our country, needs to be disrespected during every football game.

I will not watch Steelers football games and neither will anyone in my family or circle of friends. The Steelers and the NFL turn my stomach each time they insult the American flag.

I hope every team in the out-of-control NFL kicks the Steelers' butts. The NFL, home of ex-cons, thugs, foul mouths, lawbreakers and spineless owners, is now also the home of virulent anti-Americanism.

The Steelers organization stinks.

Daniel J. Stuthers

Plum


Having served in the military for 22 years, I am appalled at the constant displays of disrespect of our country. What the Steelers did was inexcusable and disrespectful to the country and anyone who has ever served.

Mike Tomlin said he wasn't going to get into politics. That is exactly what he did. The absence of all but one Steeler from the field was a protest.

Wake up, people. The government is not the country; we are. When you disrespect the flag or the national anthem, you disrespect yourself and everyone around you. I for one do not appreciate it.

I spent the morning of Sept. 24 helping to make 10,000 meals at my church for folks who have no food (didn't see the media there). Then I came home to find out that the NFL, spoiled rich kids the lot of them, is disrespecting our country. You want to disagree with President Trump or the government, get in line. It can be done without disrespecting the whole country.

Tomlin, you said you didn't want the players to have to choose. Did Alejandro Villanueva really have a choice? You made him honor his country in the shadows. Shame on you.

We are the country. The players in the NFL may come to realize that when they stop making it all about "ME."

Pat Jess

South Park

The writer is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.


How disappointed we were to return from a four-day Gettysburg vacation in time for the Steelers' kickoff against the Bears, only to see the team abdicate to the few who refuse to stand for the national anthem. Evidently, Coach Mike Tomlin felt that if everyone wasn't in agreement, no one should stand.

Political correctness is a contagious disease in our great country. This decision reminds me of my parents asking, "If everyone decided to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?"

We like Tomlin, but he made the wrong call here. There is never a reason to disrespect our flag or our anthem. Our Constitution allows all of us to express ourselves in appropriate ways. We live in the greatest country in the world.

We salute former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who stood and sang with his hand on his heart as the lone Steelers player present. His 6-foot-9-inch stature and respectful participation showed all of us how to stand tall for our country. Thank you, No. 78.

Susan & Michael Alfieri

North Huntingdon


The response to the Sept. 24 NFL games has only made me more disheartened by the political, racial and cultural divide in this country. A wound that had scabbed over but never healed has been reopened and is becoming a festering sore.

We face a number of existential crises at the moment, and yet we cannot agree on the most basic tenets of freedom and equality, ideals upon which this country was founded.

In better times, we argued our points, weighed their merits and came to a consensus as to how to resolve the challenges facing the country. Today, we shout past one another in an endless stream of tweets and comments on social media.

It's become too easy to ignore the humanity of those with whom we disagree. We type furiously into our devices, ignoring the fact that there are living, breathing people attached to those disembodied words on our screens.

Our country is hurting. Controversies like the debate over the national anthem are merely a symptom of a much more dire illness. I bit my tongue when I read some of the more vile threads. If I am not a part of the solution, I am part of the problem. There's something to be said for turning the other cheek.

Alex Litrun

Unity


Personally, I think players have lost sight of what the national anthem represents. I'm all for protesting, but not during the national anthem; it's neither the time nor the place. Freedom is not free; men and women in our armed forces have made the ultimate sacrifice to give every American freedom to protest.

For all Americans, standing, removing your hat/helmet and placing your hand across your heart during the singing of the anthem is a small way to show gratitude and honor those fallen men and women. I find it highly offensive that overpaid athletes playing a kids' game feel the need to use a sporting event for their own personal political agenda. For Pete's sake, show some respect for our country and fallen soldiers.

If you don't understand what freedom means, I highly recommend you attend a naturalization ceremony and converse with a few newly minted American citizens; perhaps then, you'll understand.

Casey Coppock Sr.

Hempfield


Players who kneel during our national anthem have complained that people who disagree with their kneeling aren't hearing about their experiences.

Instead of kneeling, if players had announced that during the anthem, they would stand in respect but fold their hands in prayer or wish to end all violence in our communities and all violent encounters involving police — which goes both ways — millions of people would have sought out their experiences and emulated the players in prayers or wishes. This could have inspired so much meaningful dialogue and action.

Greg Ruzicka

North Huntingdon


"National anthem" means a song of patriotism. It has nothing to do with politics, but everything to do with our country.

My 14th-great-grandfather was born in 1610 in Massachusetts. There has been a Sweetland in every war my country has fought since the Revolutionary War. We all respect the office of the president of these United States, for that is the way it is. We also stand tall for our country, no matter what.

I am a veteran of the Vietnam War. We were the most lied-to military known. President Lyndon Johnson lied to us daily. Walter Cronkite became my hero when he said that he could no longer support the president. Johnson decided not to run for a second term.

Just think of all the blood that was shed and lives given so you can be free to stand for our national anthem.

Again, this is a matter of patriotism, not politics. Don't confuse this issue, Mike Tomlin, by calling it politics. Remember, it was one of you who started this whole thing by not standing, and you, like sheep, have followed to your own self-made outcome.

Art Sweetland

Upper Burrell


With the greatest respect for Alejandro Villanueva, a true honorable American of whom we are all enormously proud, I say to the rest of the Steelers team: If you collectively cannot stand up in respect for our national anthem, I cannot stand up for you.

You are fueling the division in this country while being paid to work. I've always held you in the highest esteem and must ask you to please ignore or drop Twitter and stand up as patriotic gentlemen and set the standard for the NFL.

Sadly, if you collectively are unable to stand in respect for our national anthem, then perhaps it would be best to pack up your football shoes, leave the Terrible Towel with us and get a job someplace (maybe another country) where you can kneel or stand and lock arms when the national anthem is played, or sit in your safe space with Twitter and whine.

Susan Smith

Annapolis, Md.

The writer is a Ben Avon native.


As a Steelers fan for over 60 years (and a Red Raider on the last undefeated/untied "Ken Hi" football team, 1957), I am first and foremost an American. As such, I was appalled by the Steelers' performance; first by not appearing and standing for our national anthem, and second by losing to the Chicago Bears.

I was pleased to see the Bears stand for and respect our national anthem. I congratulate them on winning the game and, more importantly, on being proud Americans.

Blair Gensamer

Savannah, Ga.

The writer is a New Kensington native.


NFL players apparently do not understand that our flag and national anthem embody not only veterans who sacrificed so that the players could live and play in freedom, it also envelops the freedom and beliefs of all Americans whose families will never share the wealth and fame afforded to these unappreciative players.

There are thousands of flags at Arlington National Cemetery that adorn graves of military members who stood up for us so that we may live in freedom. Could these players play in freedom today if our uniformed men and women would have "taken a knee" when our great nation was attacked during World War II and on 9/11?

Perhaps a fitting tribute to those NFL players who refuse to honor what we stand for is induction into "The Hall of Shame."

If these players continue to "stand down," then we Americans must "stand up" for our heroic military members, past and present, and for all Americans who still believe that America is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave.

One way may be to boycott the NFL.

Matt Drozd

Ross

The writer is a veteran and a former Republican member of Allegheny County Council.


Your assignment: Tell your employer that you are going to do something disrespectful against God, country, the flag and all who died to protect freedom. Then tell us how long it took you to clear out your locker.

Your job is gone unless you work for the Russian embassy or Satan. There is no right to disrespect God, country and the flag, which protects your job. The politically incorrect crowd has no problem firing people. Their only rule is that if someone says "evil is evil," then they are evil, and they are gone. They don't mind destroying anyone on their way to demoting God. Ask any former ESPN announcer.

Daniel Robinson

West Deer


By cowardly cowering off the field, the Steelers disrespected their country, their fans and themselves. When I thought it couldn't get worse, it did: The only team member to honor the anthem now says it was accidental.

Although I left Pennsylvania 45 years ago, I checked the TV schedule every weekend to see if the Steelers game was playing on an Anchorage station. Often it wasn't, but when it was, I enjoyed watching "my" home team. No more. The Steelers and their coach are an embarrassment to the country, their former fans and themselves.

Larry R. Fay

Anchorage, Alaska

The writer, an Army veteran, is a native of Colegrove, McKean County.


After hearing multiple reasons for the Steelers not taking the field Sept. 24, I have a question for Tomlin: If he says he doesn't know why Alejandro Villanueva is apologizing and Villanueva has nothing to apologize for, then why did Tomlin, through his "100-percent participation" comments after the game, indicate that Villanueva disrespected his team by standing at the end of the tunnel and honoring the flag? Someone in the media should ask him that question to his face.

Ben Roethlisberger gave lame excuses too. He wanted to stand with Villanueva but Bears fans blocked his way? Six-foot-4, and he got blocked? Cowards and liars.

As far as Art Rooney's letter to fans, that's just damage control because the Steelers see money flying away.

The Steelers owe the fans an apology and the truth. We're not stupid. I have always been proud of our team, but what a blow.

Arlene Benedict

Unity


The Steelers' Mike Tomlin has failed to show the leadership required to be a head coach. His players tried to hide in the locker room to avoid the anthem controversy, but all he did was to expose himself as a coward.

The entire NFL deserves to suffer from reduced ratings if they don't recognize that the vast majority of their fans do not like this politicization of the game they love.

Tom Portante

O'Hara


The protests by NFL players during the national anthem sicken me. They could have legitimately expressed themselves by marching, speaking or running for office to state their concerns. Instead, the protesters disrespected our flag and our nation. They have highly offended large numbers of fans.

Clearly, the First Amendment right to free speech includes these protests. But it is also true that employers can curtail our political speech when we are at work. Few of us could wear a political T-shirt or campaign for our candidate at work without being disciplined or fired. In other words, the players have the political right to kneel during the anthem, but the team owners and the league have the right to fine, suspend or fire them for doing so.

The owners and the league have not done any of these things. They chose to offend many fans rather than their players.

For fans, football is entertainment and is supposed to be fun. We go to or watch a game as a way of escape. We do not want to see an offensive political protest.

The NFL has left us with no other recourse than to stop attending and watching the games and stop buying NFL gear.

John Chain

North Huntingdon


Alejandro Villanueva was right and the Steelers were wrong. However, I think Coach Mike Tomlin thought he was doing the right thing. So, while we can and should stew in our resentment for a while, family members should also forgive one another. Take your time (as I will), but please don't desert our team and our city.

Jim Bernauer

Crafton


I was fortunate to go to the Sept. 24 Steelers game against the Chicago Bears. I was surprised and impressed when the Bears organization played a video of Dan Rooney as part of its pregame activities. The Bears fans stood and clapped when the video was over. It was a proud moment for me as a lifelong Steelers fan and, I'm sure, for all the Steelers fans who were there.

The Bears then took the field. I was waiting for my Steelers to take the field, but there seemed to be a delay, and then the national anthem began. Where were my Steelers? Was something wrong?

Every single one of the Bears was standing on the sidelines, showing their respect for our flag and our great country. After the anthem, the Steelers ran onto the field. I was never in my lifetime more embarrassed and ashamed to be a Steelers fan.

The Steelers have always been an organization that did the right thing, no matter what the political results would be. Why has that changed? The organization now seems to be more interested in being politically correct than in doing the right thing.

Larry Scott

West Deer


My solution to the NFL's "optics" problem: Everybody kneel — in prayer — at midfield — for "God Bless America" instead of the national anthem. Tim Tebow knelt in prayer and was chastised. Let's see Millionaires' Row kneeling — for the sake of Puerto Rico this week, peace with North Korea the next, then collectively to find a cure for breast cancer later in October.

Never happen, but a nice thought, eh?

"EK" — everybody kneel — and thank God for living in a country as great as ours.

Gary Topolosky

Brentwood

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