(CBS) Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says he now regrets his team’s decision to stay in the locker room during the national anthem prior to the game against the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.
“The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing and some kneeling or sitting,” he said in a statement.
Bears players and coaches locked arms as a team along the sidelines as a sign of solidarity prior to their game. The league-wide protest came after President Donald Trump called on NFL players who refused to stand for the anthem to be fired.
“As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the anthem. I personally don’t believe the Anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest,” Roethlisberger continued. “For me, and many others on my team and around the league, it is a tribute to those who commit to serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality. Moving forward, I hope standing for the Anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe. God bless those men and women.”
Two members of the Steelers were on the field — coach Mike Tomlin, who occupied the sidelines, and guard Alejandro Villanueva, who stood outside the tunnel with his hand over his heart. Villanueva served in the U.S. Army before playing in the NFL.