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Steelers quarterback says he regrets decision to stay off the field during national anthem

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks to pass Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago. Rothlisberger said he regrets his team’s decision to stay off the field for the national anthem. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Monday that he regrets his team’s decision to stay off the field for the national anthem before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

'I wish we approached it differently'

In a statement posted on his website, Roethlisberger said, “I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the national anthem yesterday.”

“The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently,” he explained. “We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting.”

He argued the decision “was not a protest of the flag or the anthem.”

“I personally don’t believe the anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest,” he wrote. “For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Roethlisberger added that he appreciates “the unique diversity in my team” and in the NFL, and that he supports calls “or social change and the pursuit of true equality.”

“Moving forward, I hope standing for the anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe,” he said. “God bless those men and women.”

The decision

In the wake of President Donald Trump's calling for NFL players who don’t stand for the anthem to be fired, some teams decided to kneel in protest. But Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told CBS Sports on Sunday that his team would remain off the field for the anthem.

“These are very divisive times for our country and for us, as a football team, it's about us remaining solid,” he said, adding:

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was the only member of the team to stand on the field during the anthem.

The Steelers lost to the Bears 23-17 in overtime on Sunday.

(H/T: The Hill)

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