Ben Roethlisberger said on Monday he wished the Pittsburgh Steelers had taken a different approach to the national anthem before Sunday's game at Soldier Field.
The Steelers were one of three teams, along with the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans, that opted not to take the field for the anthem before their game.
Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former U.S. Army Ranger and Bronze Star recipient, was the lone exception, standing outside the tunnel with his hand over his heart as the anthem played. Villanueva said on Monday he did not intend to stand alone during the national anthem, calling it “a very embarrassing” botching of the team’s plan.
The Steelers' decision proved unpopular with many of the team's fans, many of whom went on social media to voice their displeasure, even posting videos of themselves burning Steelers merchandise.
Roethlisberger issued a statement on his personal website on Monday saying he regretted the team's decision to miss the anthem.
"I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the national anthem yesterday," he wrote.
"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.
"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. 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."
Roethlisberger told reporters the team would be on the field for the anthem before their next game on Sunday in Baltimore.
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