(AP/WISH) — After a weekend of nationwide discussion and protests following President Donald Trump’s Friday night suggestion that NFL owners fire players who kneel during the national anthem at games, a player who stood apart from the rest of his team is garnering attention, as his jersey becomes a top seller.
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva stood by himself near the tunnel while his teammates were in the locker room before the game Sunday. After he stood with a hand over his heart during the performing of the national anthem, his jersey was listed on Monday as the top-selling jersey in the NFL shop.
- PHOTOS: NFL players across the country expressed themselves during the national anthem at games on Sunday.
The Associated Press observed more than 200 players around the NFL kneeling or sitting during the national anthem on Sunday. No one sat or knelt at the Pittsburgh at Chicago game, although the Steelers stayed in the tunnel.
Trump’s remarks continued throughout the weekend, provoking team owners and the NFL to stridently defend the sport and its players. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has taken heat for Colin Kaepernick’s struggle to find a team, quickly condemned Trump’s comments.
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month,” Goodell said. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay responded Saturday night to Trump’s Friday night suggestion, saying he was “troubled by the the president’s recent comments about our league and our players.”
Fans in Indianapolis on Sunday had mixed reactions to a number of Colts and Browns players kneeling as the national anthem was performed at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“I just think that we should all be able to stand. We are America. We should be proud to be Americans. I have lots of family in the military. I was hurt by it,” said one fan.
“It has nothing to do with the flag [or] disrespecting the flag. It is making a peaceful statement. All of the violence, and someone is making a peaceful cause to bring attention to that. I don’t see any harm in that,” said another.
The amount of protests around the NFL ballooned this weekend in the wake of President Donald Trump’s criticism of players who protest during the national anthem. Only four players were observed kneeling or sitting during the weekend of Sept 16-17, and two others raised their fists.