PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin says he supports Alejandro Villanueva’s decision to cover up the name of Antwon Rose II on his helmet, wearing the name of a military veteran instead.
During the Steelers’ game against the Giants on Monday night, Villanueva veered off course from his teammates and wore the name of a military veteran, Alwyn Cashe.
I have absolutely no issue w/honoring Alwyn Cashe.
Doesn’t mean we can’t ask Al a)why he departed from what team did, & b)why he was ok covering Antwon Rose Jr.’s name.
It would give him a chance to describe why a posthumous Medal of Honor for Sgt. Cashe is so important to him. pic.twitter.com/D802hmCdpF
— Chris Mack (@THEChrisMack) September 15, 2020
Tomlin addressed Villanueva’s decision Tuesday afternoon during a press conference, saying they’d discussed the decision.
“As an organization, and myself as the head coach of the organization, we’re going to support our players however they chose to participate and express themselves, or to not participate or not express themselves, as long as they do so thoughtfully and with class,” said Tomlin Tuesday.
He went on to say that was a “blanket approach,” so he didn’t think Villanueva’s decision needed any further explanation. Tomlin said this summer that it was the team’s intention to support players in what they decide to do — like kneeling.
According to the Military Times, Cashe was killed in 2005 while serving in the Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Cashe, a Sgt. 1st Class died while rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
After debate whether his actions warranted an upgrade, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has agreed that he would endorse upgrading Cashe’s award to a posthumous Medal of Honor.
Before the game, the Steelers announced that the team would all wear Rose’s name on their helmets for the entirety of the 2020 season.
The Steelers say this year, the NFL is allowing players to wear helmet decals honoring victims of systemic racism, so they chose Antwon Rose. He was 17 when he was shot and killed by a police officer in 2018.
Reactions to Villanueva’s decision were mixed.
Some mentioned that this isn’t the first time Villanueva has gone against a team decision.
78 has a history of going against the team in a very public way and it seems to be completely acceptable….. interesting
— BMW the DJ (@BMWTHEDJ) September 15, 2020
Others said that Cashe was a hero and Villanueva should not have to defend his decision.
You cant be serious. This is click bait. Read the wikipedia article.https://t.co/yuvFFYuX05
This man was a hero. Saved so many lives and gave his. He doesn't need to explain why he chose a hero on the back of his helmet.
— James Bohler (@Jim_Bohler) September 15, 2020
It’s unclear if Villanueva will continue to display Cashe’s name moving forward.