Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joined all but one of his teammates in protesting the national anthem yesterday by staying in the tunnel leading to the field—at Chicago’s Soldier Field--until after the anthem was played.
Today, he admitted in a written statement that he “was unable to sleep last night” because of the protest he had participated in.
The one member of the Steelers team who did not hide in the tunnel during the national anthem was offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who, as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, served three tours in Afhganistan as an Army Ranger—and one a Bronze Star for Valor.
Villanueva came out of the tunnel and stood in full view of the fans for the anthem—and put his hand over his heart.
The Steelers ended up losing the game to the Chicago Bears, 23-17.
At a press availability on Monday afternoon, Roethlisberger said that he wanted people to know that he supports “police and all that stuff” and that “by no way were we protesting the anthem.”
“I want everyone to know that I support our military, our first responders, police and all that stuff, and by no way were we protesting the anthem and what that stands for,” said Roethlisberger. “I want that to be very clear as I stand up here. It was about us being united as the Pittsburgh Steelers and being in that tunnel standing together as one group.”
Here is Roethlisberger’s full written statement about his inability to sleep after not taking the field for the anthem.:
“I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the National Anthem yesterday. 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. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting.
"As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.
"I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality. Moving forward, I hope standing for the Anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe. God bless those men and women."