Steelers players stay in locker room during anthem

Nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers players stayed in the locker room during the national anthem prior to Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

Only the Steelers coaches, including head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, were on the sideline during the national anthem. Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, stood just outside of the tunnel entrance to the field, not on the sidelines during the anthem.

Tomlin told NFL Network's Stacey Dales that the players were planning to take part in a unification meeting in the locker room before the game. Dales reported Tomlin met with the players Saturday and the team also held a players-only meeting to discuss what they wanted to do.

Dales notes in the NFL rulebook it states a team could be fined if they are not on the field. However, a league source told NFL Network Insider that the Steelers will not be fined by the NFL.

The decision comes a day after the NFL, the NFL Players Association and team owners and CEOs responded to President Trump stating Friday that team owners should fire players who fail to stand for the national anthem prior to games.

Tomlin explained the Steelers' decision following Sunday's loss to the Bears.

"The big thing is that we remain united," Tomlin said. "These teams, man, this game of football is a unique one. We're all blessed to be part of it, man. We all get tolerances because of people that are different, because of our association with ball. I think anybody that's involved with ball, has a high level of tolerance, has a high level of understanding. We feel bad who aren't involved in football. Who don't have the opportunity to have a brother that is very different next to him that he can rely on to gain understanding.

"We will not be divided by this. We got a group of men in there who come from different social-economic, backgrounds, races, creeds, ethnicities and religions and so forth. That's football. That's a lot of team sports. But because of our position, we get drug into the bull----, to be quite honest with you. And so some have opinions, some don't. We wanted to protect those that don't, we wanted to protect those that do. We came here for a football game today, and that was our intentions."

Players on the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens sidelines linked arms and some took a knee during the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the start of Sunday's game at Wembley Stadium in London. Players around the NFL followed suit throughout Sunday with different protests and displays of unity.

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