A former NFL offensive lineman came to the defense of Pittsburgh Steelers center Alejandro Villanueva after a miscommunication was reported between the player and team captains.
Villanueva honored Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe during Monday night’s game, breaking with the rest of the team, who honored Antwon Rose Jr. – a 17-year-old Black teen who was shot and killed by a Pittsburgh police officer. Cam Heyward and Ben Roethlisberger told reporters they were “surprised” by Villanueva’s decision.
Cashe died in 2005 after attempting to rescue fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle following a roadside bomb in Samarra, Iraq, on Oct. 17, according to the Military Times. He suffered second- and third-degree burns over 70% of his body, eventually succumbing to those injuries on Nov. 5.
Marcus Gilbert, who was Villanueva’s teammate on the Steelers from 2014 to 2018, tweeted Thursday more people need to come to offensive lineman’s defense.
“I’d be disappointed if guys don’t come out to defend Alejandro Villanueva. The mob is constantly working to divide our country with their false narratives…Have to stand up to these people. Al is one of my all-time favorite teammates, a veteran, a great person and a great friend,” Gilbert tweeted.
I’d be disappointed if guys don’t come out to defend Alejandro Villanueva. The mob is constantly working to divide our country with their false narratives…Have to stand up to these people. Al is one of my all-time favorite teammates, a veteran, a great person and a great friend— Marcus Gilbert (@MarcusGilbert88) September 17, 2020
Villanueva is a former captain in the U.S. Army who served three tours in Afghanistan and became an Army Ranger before joining the NFL in 2014.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Villanueva discussed his plan with him and that he supported his players no matter how they chose to express themselves, according to ESPN.
“As an organization and myself as a head coach of an organization, we are going to support our players in however they choose to participate and express themselves or to not participate or not express themselves, as long as they do so thoughtfully and with class.”