Pittsburgh Steelers Left Tackle Alejandro Villanueva was the only player on his team to stand for the national anthem — he's also a highly-decorated U.S. military veteran.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced on Sunday that his team was taking an unprecedented step in protesting the national anthem by staying in the locker room to “remove ourselves from the circumstances.”
The decision by Tomlin didn’t sit well with Villanueva, who decided to defy his teammates by being present and standing during the national anthem.
When disgraced NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started protesting the national anthem in August 2016, Villanueva was critical of the decision:
"I don't know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that's providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year ... when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year."
Villanueva, who is of Spanish descent, is a former U.S. Army Captain who served three active tours in Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor — one of the highest individual awards given by the U.S. military.
Though he stands 6-foot-9, and served in the military at 240 pounds, Villanueva had to gain nearly 100 pounds in order to play on the offensive line for the Steelers after not being chosen in the NFL draft.