For Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, he had to know the questions would be coming the next time the media was permitted to speak to players. When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit down, rather than stand, during the National Anthem of the United States, as a form of protest, Villanueva isn't just another NFL player giving an opinion.
He is a former Army Ranger.
Sure, Kaepernick's teammates and coaches have been grilled with thought-provoking questions regarding the protest, but have they ever put their lives on the line for the flag which represents such freedoms?
Villanueva has, serving in three tours in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2013, and his thoughts on the entire situation were certainly poignant.
"I agree that America is not perfect, I agree there are lot of issues with minorities in this country, I agree we should do something about it," Villanueva told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "But I don't know if the most effective way is to sit down when the national anthem of the country that is providing you freedom and providing you $60 million a year is the best way to do it when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and protecting our freedom for less than $20,000 a year."
"I just know I'm very thankful to be an American," Villanueva said today before practice. "I will stand very proudly and sing every single line of the national anthem every single time I hear it. I will stop whatever I'm doing because I recognize I have to be very thankful to be in this country."
"I tell my teammates all the time, especially when they talk about contracts, I'm one of the cheapest left tackles in the NFL [but] just by being an American I've won three lotteries. And if you have a little money on top of me, that means I have 3½ lotteries.
"I've been very fortunate to travel a lot and see what it's like in different countries. I've experienced true racism that happens in Europe with a lot of minorities. It's very difficult for me to be here in America, as grateful as I am, in the best country in the world, and have people not be pleased about it."
There is a contingent who understand and support Kaepernick's protest, and Villanueva isn't trying to say the system is perfect, but possibly going about things another way would be the best course of action.
"I think he's obviously upset and I think we all agree, the majority of America would agree, there's an issue with minorities in our country, the way some groups in our population are being treated," Villanueva said. "I just think not standing up for America is a little bit unfair on his part because he's not taking into consideration the minorities that are fighting for the flag, like myself, the thousands of people who lay their lives so he can express himself."
Villanueva represents both professional athletes and service men and women everywhere, and although this story is far from finished, he brings a very unique and interesting line of thinking to the table as someone who actually did serve in the armed forces for the United State of America.