Steelers icon and Vietnam vet sets record straight why protests shouldn’t ‘have gotten to this point’
By Zach Vogel
When it comes to the NFL’s national anthem protests, many have spoken out claiming they know the solution.
They are entitled to think that, but none of them has the perspective of Pittsburgh Steelers icon Rocky Bleier.
Bleier was a four-time Super Bowl champion despite seeing his career cut short due to his service in the Vietnam War.
After his rookie season in Pittsburgh, the running back was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968 and sent to Vietnam.
In 1969, while on patrol, he was wounded when an enemy bullet hit him in the left leg. While he was down, a grenade exploded nearby, sending shrapnel into his right leg and taking off part of his foot.
Doctors told Bleier he wouldn’t play football again, but he survived the war and eventually made his way back into the NFL despite having half a right foot.
Over his 11-year career, all with the Steelers, he rushed for 3,865 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Now 71, Bleier talked about the anthem protests to Yahoo Sports, saying, “It’s very simply this: This is a workplace. You are at the stadium. You are working that day. This is not a platform for protest.
“The American people, they can’t go to their workplace and start to protest about whatever may be happening in their life. That wouldn’t be allowed. Fans understand that, and that shouldn’t be allowed in the NFL either.”
“It’s not a violation of the First Amendment at all. You have off days, you can do it outside of the stadium or on other platforms, but not the game day platform while you are ‘on the clock’. It’s a very simple question and people are making it more complex than it really is.”
The Purple Heart recipient said the situation should have been addressed early on.
“There was a lack of leadership there on the owners’ side as well as the Players Association long before to nip whatever was coming down the road, after the Colin Kaepernick situation a year ago, in the bud,” Bleier said. “It should never have gotten to this point. Nobody has stepped up to say, ‘No, this is not what we do on game day.’”