The NFL always seems to be caught up in some kind of controversy – players charged with domestic abuse, drug abuse and even murder. The latest ongoing controversy is players kneeling during the anthem, causing outrage among many of the fans. But when the entire Pittsburgh Steelers’ team decided to forgo the anthem entirely and stay in the locker room during Sunday’s game, fans went berserk.
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Fans of the team responded with intense backlash with many fans going so far as to burn all of their team memorabilia. Art Rooney II, the president of the Steelers, tried to rationalize with disgruntled fans in an open letter.
“The intentions of Steelers players were to stay out of the business of making political statements by not taking the field. Unfortunately, that was interpreted as a boycott of the anthem – which was never our players’ intention,” part of the statement reads.
Rooney continued to try and get back in the fans’ good graces by explaining how much Steelers players do for the community. He stated that the team and the organization do have respect for the military.
“I also know that our players have tremendous respect for the members of our military services, including their teammate Alejandro Villanueva. There was never any desire on the part of our players to show disrespect for our service members,” he added.
Emails flooded the front offices of the team after the poor showing on Sunday. “Yesterday, I received an email from a Steelers’ fan who said tell the players to just play football. That is exactly what they wanted to do. They wanted their sole focus to be on playing the game, while also coming together as a unified team,” Rooney concluded.
The Steelers were not the only team to face backlash for their actions Sunday. Multiple teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New England Patriots, faced angered fans. The latter was booed by their own fans.
Patriot fans could be heard yelling “Stand up!” With Sunday rapidly approaching again, it will be interesting to see if this was just a one-time stance, or if this will become a weekly occurrence that will continue to plague an already struggling NFL.