On the same day the Denver Broncos players announced they would stand for the national anthem, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncy announced that his team, too, would stand for the anthem. The Steelers were roundly excoriated last Sunday for failing to come on the field for the national anthem, and were even more roundly excoriated for extracting an apology from Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva, who came out to the field to stand for the anthem.
Pouncey explained, “I promise you one thing, this week we will all be standing out there for the national anthem. Trust me.” He added, “As far as I know it’s 100 percent participation. We love this country. It’s America. We know there are injustices in this world, but to me, personally, football is football and that’s what we need to approach it as.”
With the decisions from the Broncos and Steelers, President Trump will likely declare political victory: he’ll state that his push for a boycott of the NFL on the grounds of the anthem boycott pushed players into backing down. In reality, those players wouldn’t have been boycotting the anthem in the first place if Trump hadn’t called for the firing of players who do so. But Trump certainly picked the right issue, and made a politically smart play — and his opponents overreacted and handed him a massive victory. In any case, the Steelers’ backdown just shows how foolish the players were to kneel or skip the anthem entirely as some show of solidarity against Trump — it was widely interpreted as a slap at the flag and the anthem itself.
The announcement comes two days after Steelers president Art Rooney II sent an open letter to the fans stating that the team never meant to boycott the anthem in the first place:
Pouncey concluded, “We respect our flag and we respect our military and everything that is a part of it. I think this week we are going to show that. We are sorry for all of our fans who are upset about the things that went down, and I think we’ll come together and all of this will be out the window.”