The Steelers began posting photos on Instagram as part of a social media campaign against racism, before opening the season against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Monday night. The team also announced that every player will wear the name of Anton Rose Jr. on the back of his helmet this season, honoring and remembering a black teenager from Pittsburgh who was shot in the back by a white Pittsburgh police officer in 2018 .
We do not want it to be forgotten.
For the 2020 season, we unite as one and will wear the same name on the back of his helmet – Antwon Rose Jr. //t.co/Li8ovGgKa7
– Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) 14 September 2020
When asked about the national anthem ahead of the game, cornerback Steven Nelson did not reveal the Steelers’ plans, but said they would do everything as one.
“We will come out as a unit and we will express our confidence in that aspect,” Nelson said Saturday. “You’ll see that Monday.”
The plan is similar to the Steelers of 2017, but the execution is expected to be very different.
Three years ago, the Steelers planned to be in the locker room together for the national anthem in Chicago. But the offensive lineman and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva split from the group and was held in camera standing outside the tunnel during the anthem with his hand on his heart while the rest of the players remained inside.
In June, defensive captain Cam Heyward said, “The thing that tells me about what we were trying to do was stay out of the headlines and it went upside down.” “To know that we were seen as if we were leaving one of our brothers out, leaving Al to dry… it was never meant to bother a player.”
The result became a divisive national discussion, and the Steelers found themselves at the center of a debate about anthem protests.
This time, the Steelers are together in their words and deeds. Veteran linebacker Vince Williams, a leader of the team’s social justice committee, said the team has always felt support from team owner and chairman Art Rooney II, and has consistently open dialogue in the building. Now, however, they are making that dialogue public.
Williams said recently, “We are free to express ourselves.” “We never felt like we were in a prophecy, where we couldn’t say what we wanted to say. When the situation happened three years ago, Mr. Rooney spoke to us, addressed us and told us the way you Want to handle it. Handle it. When we came back and wanted Mike T. [coach Mike Tomlin] To make a statement for us, we told him how we wanted to see it, and we were supported from top to bottom. It does just that. I mean everyone is encouraged to speak. Everyone, it’s like yo, if you feel like you need to say something that’s going to encourage people, say it. Just don’t be careless and always be professional and keep it classy. This is what we are encouraged to do. ”
Williams said: “I think now that we are seeing the need and the people in the community want to hear from us, we are here and we are going to speak. We never felt pressured to speak because we had to I have to go. ” Lets talk about life and these things and deal with these things, and we go out in our community personally and do these things with pedestrians and on our own. ”
Part of the team’s social media blitz on Monday morning included key players such as Hayward, Eric Ebron, Bud Dupree and Zac Banner, who caught signs with their hometown’s name and why they wanted to highlight them. Some, like Banner, wrote about police brutality incidents in captions, while others, such as Dupree, were involved in what they are doing to bring about change in their hometown.
“Tonight, we, as a team, will unite the Pittsburgh Steelers and show that we are against racism,” Banner wrote, as did the Steelers’ other social media posts. “Personally, I want to highlight my hometown of Tacoma, WA because of the killing of Manuel Ellis by the local police department. We all make a stand against racism and we will continue to speak our minds and be one of our platforms. Will use as a positive side. To change things in our great country. I am the Zach banner, and I am against racism. ”
The team’s social justice committee often met throughout the office, and players could choose to join any of the four subcommittees aimed at targeting specific initiatives in the Pittsburgh community, such as voter turnout.
Before investigating a team at Heinz Field during training camp, the Steelers added weapons behind Tomlin as he explained to the team the responsibility of using his platform.
“We are committed to taking action to be a part of social injustice and prejudice and to be a part of the solution we all face, not only in our country, but around the world. It is the formation of a more ideal union We want to be an active participant in the process. ”, Said Tomlin.
“That being said, we realize that we are constantly reminded of how far we have been from recent events. We stand before acknowledging that we are blessed and privileged. But this privilege does not hurt us. Saves. This privilege does not shield us. Shock or resentment. It does not protect us from fear, fear for our safety, or from a loved one or precarious health. Being beyond football men, first of all and we are a husband. , Father, brother, son, uncle, are members of a community. We wanted to stop by and share with the people who are watching you tonight that we are listening to you, but the most important thing is that we Stand together. ”
The next day, Hayward and Williams, who were both heavily involved in the Steelers’ social justice initiative, echoed the words of their coach, stating that the team selected Tomlin because of his role in the NFL and that “he is a As a person. ” ”
“We can’t be blind to what’s going on,” Hayward said. “We have seen too many injustices to keep quiet. Our communities have been hurt day in and day out. We have been left with the question, ‘Why?’ When we are held accountable on the field, we want to be off the field, and we feel that others should be so.
“With that said, we didn’t just want to make a statement. We know and make a lot of statements, but they are not enough. Going forward, we want our organization and the Steelers and everyone to get behind it Take action. Through it. I think we’re going to make a lot of changes going forward. With that change, we understand that it’s not going to happen in a day or two. We want something attainable that will last long. Vala, be persistent. Give our children a better way to be black men as you see today. ”