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Steelers fans upset with team's anthem protest

| Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, 10:33 a.m.
Pittsburgh Steelers players stand in the tunnel during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Pittsburgh Steelers players stand in the tunnel during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
The Steelers' Alejandreo Villanueva stood for the national anthem as the rest of the team stayed in the tunnel before the game against the Bears on Sunday.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Alejandreo Villanueva stood for the national anthem as the rest of the team stayed in the tunnel before the game against the Bears on Sunday.

Many Steelers fans took to social media Sunday and Monday to voice their displeasure with the Steelers' decision to sit out the national anthem Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.

As professional sports were roiled by President Donald Trump's comments that the NFL should fire any "son of a bitch" who doesn't stand for the national anthem, the team had voted Saturday to avoid singling out anyone who chose whether or not to protest by staying in the tunnel to the locker room during the anthem. But many fans saw the absence of all but one player on the field — Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva — as an act of protest itself and lashed out at the team, Coach Mike Tomlin and the NFL in general.

One fan went so far as to post an advertisement on Craigslist selling their personal-seat license ; others pledged to unload their memorabilia or return tickets.

Some fans said the Steelers players who stood in the team tunnel during the anthem — a move Tomlin said was meant to keep the team out of politics — showed a disrespect for the United States. Matt Drozd, an Air Force veteran and former Allegheny County Councilman, pledged to organize a boycott of the team and its merchandise.

"What does that flag mean? It drapes the coffins of soldiers," Drozd said. "The flag symbolizes more than what the president said... Just because they have a right, doesn't make it right."

Teri Sestilli of Hempfield said she was looking up all the teams with a significant number of players who protested during the anthem and boycotting them. As for the Steelers, she said, she would never watch another game.

"They're not (protesting) independently, they're doing it on the field, in defiance of their employers, their sponsors and their fans," said Sestilli, 64.

Facebook fan pages were rife with arguments over the issue, with some shutting down discussions that veered into politics, and others getting comments about the anthem on every play-by-play post.

Yet others called the flap an opportunity to nab hard-to-get game tickets, or for "true fans" of the team to stand by them.•

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