Alejandro Villanueva: ‘To Use Me As A Tool To Push Agendas…Is Completely Unacceptable’

Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva had somewhat of an anxious week after he found himself right in the center of the spotlight that was shone on the NFL last Sunday as a reaction to the many teams who participated in—or tried not to participate in—protests around the league during the national anthem.

A decorated Army Ranger, the third-year veteran told the team leadership that he would like to stand in a position where he could see the flag during the anthem and was told that the team would be behind him, but a pre-game celebration that was coming off the field at the same time between himself and the rest of the players prevented them from meeting him until after the anthem had already begun.

This created the negative optics that drew national attention and slanted headlines around the country, some insinuating that he ‘defied’ the team’s directive, others suggesting that the team ‘threw him under the bus’. Still more suggested that his head coach criticized him.

Villanueva was unhappy with the reactions and said that he felt embarrassed by the appearance of separation from his teammates in the images published nationwide, which prompted him speak to the media for 15 minutes on Monday, giving his version of the events and answering questions.

That only led some to believe that the team forced him to ‘apologize’, even while Mike Tomlin in his own press conference later specifically said that he did not know why Villanueva apologized, and that he had nothing to apologize for.

He was having none of it after yesterday’s game. As you might imagine, he was still fielding questions about the event that catapulted him into having the fastest-selling jersey in the league. “To wake up in the morning and see the face of coach Tomlin and the face of a soldier pitted against each other is completely unacceptable – from the media”, he told reporters, according to Jeremy Fowler.

I love my teammates, I love Coach Tomlin, I love this organization and I love coming to work”, Villanueva said. The same people who have exalted him and put his jersey on the top of the list are also the same people who have prompted him to have to address the media about the topic and correct inaccurate accounts of what had occurred and put him in a difficult situation.

He went on, using even harsher teams for the media, saying, “to use me as a tool to push agendas and push messages is completely unacceptable”. He was expecting not to be a story at all, yet he has been the center of attention for the past week—the opposite of what he wanted.

I can’t help but wonder if we saw some of his frustrations manifest itself on the field yesterday when he committed a foolish personal foul in the second quarter after a first-down run from the Ravens’ 12-yard line.

After some altercation with Kamalei Correa, he uncharacteristically headbutted the linebacker, drawing a 15-yard penalty. Combined with the four-yard loss on the play, that made it second and 29. It seems the only way to crack the discipline of an Army Ranger is to use his stature as a veteran to try to score political points.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Conserv_58

    AV’s condemnation of the media’s outright dishonesty and political agenda driven actions is spot on. It’s just another example of why the public at large has turned their backs on the main stream media.

  • Sorry AV, all the media and news outlets all have their story, no body ever cares about the retraction piece a week later…

  • Wayne Padgett

    The media is a joke

  • Av232

    Honestly, I think it’s more on the fans. Most articles I’ve read state the circumstance surrounding his isolation in Chicago. That is, they state the teams intentions related to staying in the tunnel and the press conferences that followed. On the other hand, individuals in comment sections blast right past that and focus in on AV’s service record, how the team abandoned him, the audacious “protest”, etc.

  • Josh

    I couldn’t agree more. The media may point out the sequence of events but the (wild) editorializing happens in the comments.

  • The Tony

    Really makes you wonder what was said to AV to have him react the way he did to get the penalty

  • pittfan

    He got head butted first. It’s usually the second hit that gets flagged.

  • pittfan

    Imagine that, a political agenda driven skewed, dishonest media…who’d a thunk it?

  • WilliamSekinger

    I am sorry this has happened to him, he doesn’t deserve it. That said, I loved seeing the fire in him yesterday during that head butt. Yeah, the penalty hurt the team, but seeing a 6’9 OT tackle with enough fire in his heart to do something like that to an opposing player is what this OL has needed.

    Get upset, take it personal, then take it out on the opposing team!

  • nutty32

    Loved that personal foul. He’d been playing soft lately and anything to get amped can only help the run game just like Decastro destroying Burfciet last year after he chopped him.

  • RMSteeler

    If Z’Smith was a kneeler, you’ll know why.

  • mape_ape

    Welcome to the new politicized NFL, AV.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    I don’t think we do, why don’t you share it with the class?

  • NCSteel

    For those who are blaming comments from the comments section for this “story”.
    If you read the article slowly, you will see that AV is the one specifically mentioning “the media”.
    I believe he also meant the media when he referred to seeing “the face of Coach Tomlin and the face of a soldier pitted against each other”.
    That is of course unless one of the commentors sent a hand drawing to AV’s home.
    I guess that’s possible but ah again, he does specifically mention…”the media”.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I honestly didn’t read a lot of the articles in question, but I did see a lot of headlines that slanted the story one way or another. Perhaps the content of the articles themselves were more descriptive than the headlines indicated.

  • SoCal Steeler

    I totally respect this man (Villanueva) for his service, his play and for apparently being a great guy. I was disappointed last week that nobody else was standing with him in a show of solidarity for military and civilian service. The reports that I read seem to be conflicting so it’s likely impossible to know the truth as to what actually happened but it’s in the past now. They stood together this week as a team and maybe not coincidently played together as a team and got a big road win. As a veteran feeling a bit disrespected by it all I’m over it and hopefully most if not all others are too. Maybe now our pure focus can be on getting #7.

  • Brandon Fry

    I was wondering if the ‘troops’ ever get tired of being used by the right to push their agenda. Similar to the way the left uses minorities.

  • Av232

    On that note, at most “main stream media” outlets the byline author does not pen the headline. So yes, there’s undeniably a little spin zone

  • will

    Exactly…..but most all seem to miss this fact.

  • RMSteeler


  • NinjaMountie

    Sometimes. Though, as with most things, you mind the most when you don’t agree. Shoot, I even get annoyed with myself when I have to bring up that I’m a Vet in a comment. This issue is one example. I’ve pointed out that I’m a Vet that believes the players have a right to kneel even if it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t think my opinion is any better than any other person. I only bring it up because of the “it disrespects the troops” mantra. I don’t feel disrespected at all. To be clear, however, I don’t think its the appropriate venue for protest and do think its disrespectful to the country. Still, it’s their right.

  • NinjaMountie

    I read a few articles, and watched a few news programs, that totally misrepresented him. It’s like the didn’t even watch his press conference.
    I also got frustrated with some people for not taking the time to realize the terrible position this man was put in. I don’t envy him this at all and I think he’s handled it about as well as it could be handled.

  • MikeyW

    I totally get what he’s talking about with the media thing. I read and/or watched Art Rooney, Coach T, Ben, Cam, Pouncey, etc. all say the same thing; we were trying to stay out of it and it backfired. We were NOT protesting. And yet all week, the headlines read some variation of “Steelers regret protest”. The media says whatever they want to get clicks and stir up more trouble.