September 26, 2017

Pennsylvania lawmaker wants state to condemn NFL's 'anti-American demonstrations'

Politics Protests
APTOPIX Steelers Bears Football Nam Y. Huh/AP

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva (78) stands outside the tunnel alone during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Chicago.

One Pennsylvania lawmaker wants the state's legislative body to denounce NFL players holding national anthem protests before games.

State Sen. Mike Regan says he plans to introduce a resolution "condemning the anti-American demonstrations we witnessed on the gridiron this weekend."

"If you support the United States of America, our national symbols, and the brave men and women who have fought to defend them, I would encourage you to attach your name in support of this resolution," said Regan, a Republican representing Cumberland and York counties in Harrisburg.

Sen. Scott Wagner, a Republican candidate for governor, echoed that sentiment in a press release through his campaign.

"The flag is not a symbol of American policy or culture," Wagner said. "It is, rather, a very real representation of the high cost of freedom and the many sacrifices made for its cause."

Across the NFL last weekend, players, coaches and owners locked arms, knelt and in some cases stayed in the locker room during pregame anthem ceremonies, a rebuke of President Donald Trump saying players who hold such protests are "sons of b******" and should be fired.

Both Regan and Wagner cited Steelers player Alejandro Villanueva, an Army veteran who served three tours in Afghanistan, as an example of a player who did the right thing among Sunday and Monday nights' demonstrations.

While the Steelers team decided to stay in the locker room during the anthem before Sunday's game against the Bears in Chicago, Villanueva stood at the end of the tunnel.

The offensive tackle has since become a favorite among those who find the protests disrespectful, with his jersey sales soaring since Sunday, even though Villanueva said after the game that he didn't find the demonstrations to be offensive.

He said after the game, per ESPN:

So out of all these players in the NFL who are taking a knee, I don't think as a veteran I take offense. In a big picture where there's customized different thing, nobody thinks when you're taking a knee you're offending the flag. And they're saying it. And I don't think that anybody that standing for the flag is not respecting the fact that there is a lot of unjustices and racial divide in our country. So we're essentially talking about two completely different things.

Villanueva explained that after the team decided collectively to stay inside the tunnel for the national anthem he was conflicted about whether to participate, and he said there was a bit of a mix up about what he was going to do. He said his team fully supports him, and that he would have been OK with players coming out and kneeling.

In calling for condemnation of the league-wide protests, Regan called the Steelers' demonstration "irreverent."

"Political dissent has manifested itself in acts of radical protest," Regan said. "Things have simply gone too far."