Alejandro Villanueva and the hypocrisy of #takeaknee critics

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I won’t lie, even as a black man, I have been kind of luke-warm on the whole Colin Kaepernick/ #takeaknee controversy since it was started fall of last year. Don’t get me wrong, I support what Kaepernick was as well as what several other NFL players were trying to bring awareness too. While personally I would not kneel or remain seated during the anthem or the pledge, I was more or less ambivalent to what amounts to 90 seconds of pleasant vocals. Most of which where I am halfway checked out, waiting for kickoff, and the camera panning to a pair of kneeling players for a fraction of that time. If it was something you supported, then you thought it was a nice gesture, if you didn’t, it was something that was a small part of the game that rarely gets that much attention. 

However, now that football has hit its most political point ever with the President remarks this past weekend, it’s time to talk about a player who became even more polarizing than Colin Kaepernick and that is Steelers linebacker, Alejandro Villanueva. 

Villanueva, who served in multiple tours of Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, had his Jersey become one of the top selling pieces of Merchandise in the country after he was pictured standing alone for the anthem while the rest of the team had agreed to wait in the locker room during the anthem.  Head coach, Mike Tomlin, had stated the team agreed to this as a response to the President's remarks over the weekend. 

The move was apparently a mistake on Villanueva’s part. He also meant to wait in the tunnel with a few of the other captains of the team and walked out too early. He addressed this in a press conference. 

While there was initially a lot of support for Villanueva, after he spoke and said the move was an accident, he faced quick rebukes from his former supporters. Many online were calling him fake, implying that he was pressured behind closed doors to issue an apology. Some even went so far as to criticize his service, as someone who lacked the courage and conviction to serve. 

Villanueva has since announced he will be donating the proceeds of his surge in merchandise sales to the USO and other military groups, as he has done with sales of his merchandise in the past.

I wanted to touch on this because it highlights something about right-wing thought that I’ve seen growing in a polarizing political climate. It almost comical how fast Villanueva’s supporters have turned on him once they found out he disagrees with them and in fact supports the #takeaknee movement. This is because morals and values are more important to the right-wing than the actual people that those morals and values are supposed to be applied to. In other words, don’t respect people, respect the concept of respect itself. 

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The primary criticism of those who opposed Kaepernick was that he was disrespecting the people who served in uniform. While I didn’t particularly see it that way, I did see where people were coming from in terms of their respect for military personnel. My respect quickly devolved for this opinion after those critics then viciously attacked Villanueva, a soldier whom you had claimed to be in support of by standing for the anthem. 

You see this all the time in conservative thought now. “Pro-life” advocates espouse that all people who get pregnant should go through with the pregnancy but then criticize the programs that keep infants from starving to death. People who want to stop Islamic Terrorism don’t even mention the overwhelming amount of right-wing, white extremism that is prevalent in the United States. Gun Rights and Anti-Gay activists strongly express their views until their loved one is harmed by a weapon or they turn out to be gay. 

 This is why this latest development is important. Not because of Trump, other players, or even because of the NFL and Villanueva himself. It’s important to call out hypocrisy because it is personal tyranny. An intellectual injustice of the highest degree. It is also, conveniently, more disrespectful than taking a knee during the anthem. I say this as someone who stands for the anthem and, more importantly, someone who loves this country. 

SportsAlec Bose