The lone player on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster to stand for the national anthem now has one of the top-selling jerseys in the National Football League.
Before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a West Point graduate and decorated Army Ranger, earned fans across the country by simply observing the playing of the anthem from field entrance while the rest of his team remained behind. According to FoxNews, the Steelers, had decided as a team to remain inside the locker room. However, Villanueva stepped forward with his hand over his heart.
In the 24 hours after taking the stand, Villanueva’s jerseys and other memorabilia sold more than that of any other NFL player. That means beating out some of the NFL’s top household names like Tom Brady, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, and Aaron Rodgers.
Sports commentator and noted ESPN critic Clay Travis had this to say:
It’s almost like NFL fans want players to stand for the anthem. https://t.co/EMXbBdxPtO
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 25, 2017
And it’s not just jersey sales that reflect the fans’ opinions on the anthem protests. Preliminary television ratings for NFL’s slate of games this weekend are down AGAIN compared to 2016. While the league tried to spin hurricane coverage as the reason for poor ratings in Week 1 and Week 2, a third straight week of decline over the past year may be evidence of a trend.
What will it take for the NFL to stem the tide, especially as fans stop watching games and join online movements like #TakeAStandNotAKnee? Taking a lesson from Alejandro Villanueva would be a start, or else the NFL may end up like ESPN, the cable sports giant that is losing 7,000 subscribers every day, due in part to the politicization of sports.
Update: Late Monday afternoon, Villanueva issued an apology for standing alone during the national anthem.