Pittsburgh Steelers starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said Monday he's "embarrassed" when he sees photos showing him standing alone during the national anthem before Sunday's game at Soldier Field.
"This national anthem ordeal has sort of been out of control, and there's a lot of blame on myself," Villanueva said. "I made Coach [Mike] Tomlin look bad, and that is my fault and my fault only. I made my teammates look bad, and that is my fault." Following President Trump's comments on Friday — that "son of a bitch" players taking a knee during the anthem to protest police brutality against blacks should be fired — Tomlin said the Steelers would not take to the field during the anthem as a way to remain unified. "We're not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda," he explained.
Villanueva, a West Point graduate and Army Ranger who deployed to Afghanistan three times, said he had gone out to look at the flag before the game, and when the anthem started, he didn't want to move, and put his hand over his heart. "Unfortunately, I threw [my teammates] under the bus, unintentionally," he said. "Every single time I see that picture of me standing by myself, I feel embarrassed. We as a team tried to figure it out. Obviously, we butchered it. ... I'm not gonna pretend I have some kind of righteous voice."
Villanueva said that he has no problems with players kneeling during the anthem and that many of the same players who take a knee have thanked him for his service. "I will support all my teammates, and all my teammates and all my coaches have always supported me," he said. Likely due to people thinking Villanueva was somehow protesting his team's decision not to come out on the field, his No. 78 jersey has been the top seller on NFLShop.com and Fanatics.com since yesterday, USA Today reports. Catherine Garcia
While Vice President Mike Pence has been keeping a low profile in recent days, several of his aides are working in overdrive, attempting to paint Pence in a positive light as the hits keep coming for President Trump.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Michael Flynn, a foreign policy adviser during the campaign and Trump's short-tenured national security adviser, notified the Trump transition team on Jan. 4 — specifically the team's lawyer, Don McGahn — that he was under federal investigation for working as a lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. A person close to the administration told NBC News on Thursday that the vice president was kept in the dark about this, and it appears there might be a "pattern" of Pence not being told about such major issues; Pence has also claimed that he wasn't told about discussions Flynn had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. until 15 days after the White House and Trump heard about it.
This person also told NBC News if the Times report is true (the White House has denied it), then "it's a fact that not only was Pence not made aware of that, no one around Pence was as well. And that's an egregious error — and it has to be intentional. It's either malpractice or intentional, and either are unacceptable." The source pinned the blame on McGahn, now White House counsel, and anyone he told for not passing the word along to Pence and his team, adding that Pence was also not asked about making Flynn national security adviser and "never" had a personal relationship with Flynn.
If it looks like Pence is in need of a good nap and maybe a dinner with his wife (and his wife alone), it's because he does, a senior adviser told CNN. Pence is a "relentlessly positive guy," the adviser said, and will always be a "loyal soldier" to Trump, but he "looks tired." He's been preparing for several speeches behind closed doors, not intentionally avoiding the public, the adviser claimed, and it doesn't makes any sense for him to get involved in the drama surrounding Flynn or the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. When Pence, then the governor of Indiana, was approached by Trump to be his running mate, his team "certainly knew we needed to be prepared for the unconventional," the adviser said, but "not to this extent." Catherine Garcia