A Steeler Hero

What Al Villanueva, offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, did Monday night, September 14th, 2020, was heroic. The Steelers decided to put the name of Antwon Rose,

a young African American man killed by a Pittsburgh police officer, on their helmets

Al Villanueva

for the 2020-2021 season. That night Villanueva replaced Rose’s name with a young black war
killed in Iraq.

The Steelers’ management decision, though done for a good motive, I believe, was very misguided. Amid the furor around the tragic George Floyd death, the Steelers made a statement about the Rose fatality, while ignoring the circumstances around his death. Displaying his name on their helmets sends the message that he was the hero, and the police were the villains. Anytime we distort the truth, it only leads to more division and potential violence against those who protect us.

It is always tragic when you lose a son, no matter what the circumstances. We should not seek to denigrate one who has passed, but neither should we try to make him a hero when he was not. The facts in the case don’t support the narrative that the police officer was wrong, and Rose was right. The officer was found not guilty by a group of his peers.  Are there things that the police can learn from this case, of course, but hindsight is always 20/20. I would not want to have been that officer in this situation.

Villanueva’s sin, for which he has been vilified, is that he honored a young black man who really was a hero. Villanueva defied the principle of “group think.” Team unity is good, but there is a higher principle: whether something is actually right or wrong. Inadvertently, though the Steelers say that they support diverse thought, they have put their players in an awkward situation to express it. It is becoming impermissible in our society to express independent thinking, which always leads to oppression rather than freedom.

Big Al, you are my hero, and I think many other fair-minded people in the Steeler Nation agree. 


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