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Alejandro Villanueva, a lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, broke with a team decision to wear Antwon Rose Jr.’s name on their helmets this season, instead opting to put the name of Alwyn Cashe, a US Army hero.
Rose was a black teen, 17 years old at the time when he was shot and killed by a police officer two years ago in Pittsburgh PA. He was running away and was shot three times in the back.
“This year the NFL is allowing players to wear helmet decals to honor victims of systemic racism. Players could select the name of an individual to wear on their helmet and the Steelers players and coaches united as one to wear a single name on the back of their helmets and hats for the entire 2020 season – Antwon Rose Jr.,” said a spokesperson for the team, according to Fox News.
Villanueva had previously been the centre of controversy when he was the only player to stand for the national anthem during a game back in 2017. Now he’s the only player to change the name on his helmet.
Alwyn Cashe, whose name now graces Villanueva’s helmet, died from burns after attempting to save several of his fellow soldiers trapped inside a burning vehicle in Iraq in 2005. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously for his bravery.
The NFL, and professional sports in general have been embroiled in a series of controversies surrounding the increasing politicization of the major leagues. Fans have often expressed their disappointment over these issues, and attendance and ratings are down across the board.
Villanueva refused to talk to the press this time around, and claimed last June in an attempted interview that he never will again. “It was taken out of context the last time I talked about this issue. I will never speak on it again.”