Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva made a bold stand Sunday and now football fans nationwide are responding with their wallets.
Prior to their matchup against the Chicago Bears, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin announced that his entire team would remain in the locker room during the national anthem so that his team remained unified.
But one player, Villanueva, took matters into his own hands. While his teammates waited in the locker room during the anthem, he stood outside the Steelers’ tunnel in reverence while the national anthem was played.
Standing during the anthem was important for Villanueva, who served as an Army Ranger prior to entering the NFL full-time in 2014.
How have fans responded?
After Villanueva’s story went viral Sunday afternoon, fans went online and bought Villanueva’s team jersey in droves. In fact, so many people swarmed to NFL merchandise website Fanatics that Villanueva’s jersey is now one of the best-selling jerseys in the NFL.
As of Monday morning, Villanueva’s jersey remains the best-selling Steeler jersey while the jerseys of famed wide-receiver Antonio Brown and famed-quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fall behind his.
Overall, only Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, Raiders quarterback Derrick Carr, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott have higher selling jerseys than Villanueva, according to 247sports.com.
Why did the Steelers stay in the locker room?
According to CBS Sports, Tomlin said before the game:
You know, these are very divisive times for our country and for us as a football team it’s about us remaining solid. We’re not going to be divided by anything said by anyone. … “[I told our players] if you feel the need to do anything I’m going to be supportive of that — as Americans you have that right. But whatever we do we’re going to do 100 percent, we’re going to do together. We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.
However, in his post-game press conference, Tomlin indicated he was disappointed that Villanueva broke ranks from his teammates, saying he was “looking for 100 percent participation” for whatever the team chose to do.