- The Washington Times
Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A member of the Pittsburgh Steelers covered up the name on his helmet of a teenager shot by police and replaced it with the name of a fallen soldier who is being pushed for a Medal of Honor.

Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger before joining the Steelers in 2014, put the name “Alwyn Cashe” on the base of his helmet for Monday night’s season opener — a victory over the New York Giants.

The Steelers had announced as a team that their players’ helmets would carry the name Antwon Rose Jr., a 17-year-old who was fatally shot by an officer in 2018, for the whole season.

Sgt. 1st Class Cashe died in Iraq in 2005 after his vehicle was hit by an IED. He had third-degree burns over three-fourths of his body and already had pulled out some comrades when he ran back into the burning vehicle in an attempt to rescue others.

He was posthumously awarded a Silver Star and Defense Secretary Mark Esper has endorsed upgrading Cashe’s award to a Medal of Honor.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Mr. Villanueva, the team’s starting left tackle, made the change with his prior knowledge and blessing.

“Yes, he did discuss that with me, and it’s in line with everything we’ve said about participating in social justice this offseason,” Mr. Tomlin said at a Tuesday press conference.

“As an organization, and myself as head coach of the organization, we’re going to support our players in however they choose to participate and express themselves — or to not participate or not express themselves. As long as they do thoughtfully and with class,” the coach said.

Mr. Villanueva has previously stood apart from his team on patriotism-related issues.

In 2017, at the height of the Colin Kaepernick-inspired kneelings, the Steelers decided to stay inside for the national anthem. Mr. Villanueva instead stood in the Steelers tunnel. He has said he will no longer discuss his anthem practices after pressure mounted on the subject this summer in the wake of the George Floyd death in Minneapolis.

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