But one player, Pittsburgh's Alejandro Villanueva, defied coach Mike Tomlin's request to remain in the locker room and walked out onto the field, put his helmet under his arm and his hand over his heart and sang along with the crowd as the anthem was played. Wordd has it that Monday his jersey sales are through the roof while NFL merchandise, ticket sales and television audience numbers are dropping off dramatically. My hat is off to the young man and former Army Ranger who spent three tours of duty in Afghanistan as a Captain before leaving the service to fulfill his athletic dream. Joining the team in 2014, he is now a starting offensive lineman and a leader along the line. In the mind of Alejandro, the offensive line in football is not that far distant from the Army's long gray line.
It was also interesting to find that the morning after the game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expressed his regrets at going along with the team's decision to be missing. It took a bit of intestinal fortitude for Big Ben to admit his mistake, but he stated he was clearly bothered by what he had agreed to the day before. It's never too late to admit you were wrong, Ben, and you will be a better man for it.
Now admittedly the number of players who took the field before the anthem, representing the twenty-nine out of thirty-two teams that did so, only had about two hundred players among them who kneeled in disrespect, but why allow it in the first place? The argument that freedom of speech demanded it doesn't apply in the case of a business where players have agreed under contract to a certain code of conduct. No, the problem isn't free speech, it's a problem of a gutless central management that has lost all soul and conscience in its attempt to cater to anyone it thinks can add to the bottom line. But I truly wonder when Goodell, a shameless and arrogant man, will realize that the course he is taking is harming the bottom line, for each game fewer and fewer watch and merchandise sales keep dropping. Personally, after what happened yesterday, I don't care if it recovers at all. The prices are now ridiculous and the quality of the game has dropped dramatically.
But there is a silver lining out of this for someone. The NFL's loss is likely to be college football's gain, unless the college game tries the same thing. It was already done at Mizzou back in 2015 and neither the football team or the University of Missouri as a learning institution have never been the same. America is waking and it doesn't like what has been going on. Honor those who are represented by the playing of the national anthem at sports events as a matter of respect. They died for each of us and deserve no less.