The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking an unprecedented step toward protesting during the national anthem: The team isn’t participating at all.
Head coach Mike Tomlin told CBS Sports that the team will remain in its locker room in Chicago instead of coming onto the field for the anthem. The motivation behind not participating comes from Tomlin’s desire for the team not to get into a political argument.
“We’re not going to play politics. We’re football players, we’re football coaches. We’re not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something he shouldn’t be separated from his teammates who chooses not to. So we’re not participating today. That’s our decision.”
Tomlin has been largely silent on the topic of protests during the anthem up to this point. In August he spoke to TribLive about the protests.
“I have no reaction. You know, a lot of people have personal opinions, and it's just that — it's personal opinions. If I don't think mine adds any value to the discussion, I will keep it to myself and not add it to the fray.”
The news comes in the wake of President Donald Trump calling for NFL players to be “fired” if they refuse to stand for the anthem. The NFL released a statement condemning the president’s statement, while several NFL owners, including noted Trump supporters Robert Kraft and Shad Khan, opposed the comments.
Players weren’t always on the field for the national anthem. Until 2009, players always remained in the locker room until the anthem finished. The Steelers’ decision to forgo the anthem together is something we have not seen before since that league-wide change.