By Andrew Chasan, Staff Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva stood out in the first week of the Monday night showdown against the New York Giants. Villanueva chose to cover the name of Antwon Rose Jr. and replace his name with Alwyn Cashe. Rose was shot in Pittsburgh after being suspected of participating in a drive by shooting. The Steelers chose to put his name on the back of their helmets for the whole season. They did this to honor his life and as a protest to systemic racism and police brutality. The NFL is allowing each franchise to wear decals on their helmets to highlight this issue. Villanueva chose to replace Rose’s name with a veteran who passed away during the United States invasion of Iraq in 2005. Villanueva is a veteran himself, a former army ranger. In his military life, he served three tours in Afghanistan. Because of this, Villanueva chose to wear a fallen veteran on the back of his helmet, and he did not go unsupported. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin expressed support for his offensive tackles decision in his press conference the day after the game.
Villanueva received a lot of criticism on social media for his decision, and in today’s critical political climate, this was to be expected. However, I have a few questions for those who criticize Villanueva for this decision.
First, what is this country built on? Did we lose the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, or is that only acceptable when it fits your narrative? I thought we were supposed to have that right. I thought we were allowed to be able to have the freedom to say and do as we please within the confines of the law, and I thought we did have the right to freely express our opinions. Isn’t that part of what makes a democracy a democracy? I didn’t think that in America, if you didn’t believe in orthodoxy, you would have your ideas suppressed, and you would have to apologize for not going with the herd ideas. That’s a scary reality we are going through right now. Villanueva has nothing to apologize for because he can do whatever he wants, and he can believe in whatever he wants. This country is built on the difference of ideas, opinions and debates to get to the solutions we need. Hopefully, this is not the new normal.