Pittsburgh, PA – Pittsburgh Steelers player Stephon Tuitt was the first black National Football League (NFL) player to openly announce he won’t join in kneeling during the National Anthem.
The practice of kneeling in protest has launched waves of controversy since former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick first did it in August of 2016.
But the kneeling has started up more than ever in professional sports leagues in the wake both coronavirus and anti-police protests over George Floyd’s death on May 25.
All of the members of the New York Yankees and the World Series champion Washington Nationals took a knee for a moment of silence before the National Anthem at the Major League Baseball (MLB) season opener on July 23, Newsweek reported.
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said in June he supported players who chose to kneel.
“Our position is simple: We’re going to support our players and their willingness to participate in this, whether it’s statements or actions,” Tomlin said, according to Newsweek.
But a Steelers defensive lineman took to social media on Monday to announce that he had no plans to join his teammates who chose to kneel on the field.
“Also I’m not kneeling for the flag and screw anybody who have a problem with that,” Tuitt tweeted on July 27. “My grandmother was a immigrant from the Carribean and age worked her ass off to bring 20 people over the right way. She had no money and educated herself to be a nurse. She living good now.”
Also I’m not kneeling for the flag and screw anybody who have a problem with that. My grandmother was a immigrant from the Carribean and age worked her ass off to bring 20 people over the right way. She had no money and educated herself to be a nurse. She living good now.
— stephon tuitt (@DOCnation_7) July 27, 2020
Tuitt has earned $37.6 million in salary during his six years in the NFL, according to Over The Cap.
He is scheduled to make $9 million in 2020.
Tuitt’s announcement was met with mixed responses on social media, with many accusing the player of not understanding the movement.
But he also received plenty of support from others who said they respected his decision.
“Good. Just play football,” conservative pundit Dennis Michael Lynch tweeted in reply. “Although few will be watching (smart, patriotic Americans are done w/ the NFL), you’ll get the respect you deserve from millions of people who will appreciate you standing up and standing out. #NFL”
Black Republican candidate Errol Webber, who is running for U.S. Congress in California, posted a video that said he would even set aside a lifelong football rivalry and cheer for Pittsburgh to support Tuitt standing up for the flag.
“I’m from Baltimore,” Webber tweeted. “I’ll put the Ravens/Steelers rivalry aside this ONE time to thank you for standing up for what you believe in, and being a proud American!”
I’m from Baltimore. I’ll put the Ravens/Steelers rivalry aside this ONE time to thank you for standing up for what you believe in, and being a proud American! https://t.co/3QoHXKF2oQ pic.twitter.com/FQRIo89dmc
— Errol Webber For Congress (CA-37) (@ErrolWebber) July 28, 2020
Steelers’ defensive tackle Cameron Heyward told reporters in June that the team would be united in their protests, however they choose to do so, FOX News reported.
“I think we want to stay united in what we do and what we want to accomplish,” Heyward said. “Coach T [Tomlin] always told me that if we win a Super Bowl, that’s not enough for the city of Pittsburgh. We want to leave a lasting change on our community as well.”
Kaepernick was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers when he took a knee to protest police brutality on the field during the National Anthem at the start of the 2016 NFL season.
He quit the 49ers at the end of the season to become a free agent, which was unrelated to his protest.
No NFL team has signed the former professional football player despite his repeated attempts to claim he was being black-balled by the league for protesting.
The protests spread beyond police brutality to protesting America.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said at the time.
He has since accused the United States of targeting minorities after President Donald Trump announced that a U.S. military airstrike had killed a notorious terrorist, Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
“There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism,” Kaepernick tweeted on Saturday.
“America has always sanctioned and besieged Black and Brown bodies both at home and abroad. America militarism is the weapon wielded by American imperialism, to enforce its policing and plundering of the non white world,” the former professional football player tweeted a minute later.