Steelers have announced that each player will wear the name Antwon Rose on their helmets this season, but offensive player Alejandro Villanueva has not.
Instead, Villanueva honored Alvin Kashe, a U.S. Army sergeant who died of injuries sustained in Iraq in 2005.
Cashe is certainly worthy of honor. In October 2005, he was in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that struck an improvised explosive device. He left the vehicle with only minor injuries, but the vehicle was on fire with other wounded soldiers inside, so he returned to the burning vehicle several times to retrieve his colleagues, rescuing a total of six soldiers. In the process of rescuing these soldiers, Kashe burned more than 72 percent of his body and he died from those burns three weeks later.
Cashe was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, but there is a movement to give Cashe the highest military award, a medal of honor. Villanueva’s decision will draw attention to this movement.
Not everyone is happy with Villanueva’s decision. The NFL has said that only pre-approved names can appear on helmets this year and that the recognized names will be for victims of racial injustice. Cache was not on the NFL’s pre-approved list, and although he was black, Villanueva honored him for his military heroism, not for being a victim of racial injustice.
Among those who criticized Villanueva was Antwon Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenny, who wrote on Facebook that Villanueva’s decision had turned the positive situation into a negative one.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers voted in a team. Obviously, one person didn’t like the results, so he chose to do something different. I have nothing against veterinarians and I absolutely appreciate everything they have done and continue to do for us. But this one man showed us exactly who he was and obviously did not approve of how the voting took place, “she wrote.
Rose was a 17-year-old black boy who was fatally shot in the back by a white police officer in East Pittsburgh while fleeing after the car in which he was a passenger was stopped as part of a driving shooting investigation. Officer Michael Rosfeld was charged with murder but pleaded not guilty to a trial of nine white jurors and three black jurors.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said that although Villanueva had not made a decision that the team had made together, he still supported Villanueva.
This is not the first time that Villanueva lifts the team. In 2017, when Tomlin told the entire team to stay in the locker room for the national anthem, Villanueva went outside the locker room and stood and greeted. Villanueva, who played college football in the military, served in Afghanistan before playing in the NFL.