The Pittsburgh Steelers chose not to enter the field during the playing of the national anthem on Sunday, eliciting boos from the crowd at Chicago’s Soldier Field football stadium.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced ahead of the game with the Chicago Bears that the team would not appear on field. Tomlin made clear that the gesture would not be to protest a particular political cause, but to “remove ourselves from this circumstance,” in light of President Donald Trump’s crusade against players who choose to kneel during the anthem to protest racism.
Alejandro Villanueva, an offensive tackle for the Steelers and former Army Ranger, diverged from the team’s action, choosing instead to stand at the entrance of the tunnel with his helmet off during the anthem.
When the anthem ended and the rest of the team ran out on to the field, many in the Chicago crowd jeered them.
Many Steelers fans registered their dissatisfaction with the team’s actions on social media.
Huge @steelers fan but the amount of disrespect for your country today was appalling. I will not be watching the game. God bless America.
— Nick Chapman (@nicartis) September 24, 2017
As a part of a 4 Generation military family, I will always stand with country over a sports team. Was a die hard Steelers fan. No longer.
— Down the Rabbit Hole (@Jenlee2425Jen) September 24, 2017
Steelers gonna lose because they didn't go out
— Jordan DeMarco (@jordan_demarco) September 24, 2017
Others praised Villanueva for choosing to stand for the anthem.
Huge shoutout to Alejandro Villanueva #78 Pittsburgh Steelers. The only player that truly honors that freedom was at a cost. #TakeTheKnee
— Candy Carter (@CandyC917) September 24, 2017
— JosephConteHings (@National_Joe91) September 24, 2017
Some observers complimented the entire team for its courage, however.
I think that was a powerful message by the Steelers
— Jason Day (@dayonefamily) September 24, 2017
Thank you Steelers!! Taking a stand or a knee is often unpopular but more rewarding than you'll ever know!!
— Lee Ann del Castillo (@LeeAnndelCasti2) September 24, 2017
Thank you Mike!!
Steelers will remain in locker room for national anthem in Chicago, Mike Tomlin sayshttps://t.co/mIZNw1prM2
— USN VN War Vet (@CSRPRP) September 24, 2017
The Steelers’ choice to abstain from participating in the national anthem comes as a response to Trump’s escalating vendetta against players who have knelt during the anthem to protest racism. Trump reiterated his call on Sunday morning for fans to boycott the NFL if the league did not “fire or suspend” players who protested during the anthem.
Players on other NFL teams used other gestures to either protest racism during the playing of the national anthem, or show solidarity with those who were. Nearly all of the Bears players locked arms on the field while standing when the anthem was played, as did many members of the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions.
Several members of the New England Patriots knelt during the national anthem, and the entire team, including quarterback Tom Brady, locked arms in a display of solidarity. Brady endorsed Trump during the presidential campaign. In April, he declined to attend a White House event celebrating the Patriots’ Super Bowl win, however, citing “personal family matters.”
The Bears, Patriots, Texans, and Lions sidelines during the national anthem pic.twitter.com/Y74ARlguTU
— SB Nation (@SBNation) September 24, 2017
Many players on the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos teams kneeled during the national anthem.
Kneeling/locking arms at Bills-Broncos game pic.twitter.com/pQHLwooBex
— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) September 24, 2017
And in the first game of the day, between the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, over 20 players on both teams took a knee.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.