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Sales for Alejandro Villanueva's jersey skyrocket after former Army Ranger stood for anthem alone

Posted at 10:39 AM, Sep 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-25 14:23:19-04

Alejandro Villanueva's jersey has outsold all others in the NFL in the past 24 hours, ESPN reports.

ESPN confirmed with Fanatics, the company that runs the NFL's online retail,.

Villanueva, an offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers and a former Army Ranger, was the only member of his team to stand for the national anthem before Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.

The rest of Villanueva's teammates stayed beneath the Soldier Field stands during the "Star-Spangled Banner" at the request of Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin.

"(It's) not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but it's to remove ourselves from the circumstance. People shouldn't have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate for the anthem, he shouldn't have to be forced to choose sides," Tomlin told CBS before the game.

After the game, Tomlin said in his postgame comments that he wanted the team to be unified in its decision. 

"Like I said, I was looking for a 100 percent participation," Tomlin said according to the official transcript. "We’re going to be respectful of our football team. Man, these are divisive times in the United States. and it’s a shame, but it is, but we’re not politicians." 

Other Steelers players told reporters they were not aware that Villanueva would be near the field for the anthem.

"We thought we were all in attention with the same agreement, obviously," James Harrison told Penn Live. "But I guess we weren't." 

Villanueva played football at Army and served as an Army Ranger before entering the NFL. Last season, he made comments critical of San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick, whose anthem protest touched off other anthem protests around the league.

"I don't know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that's providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year ... when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year," Villanueva told ESPN. "It's his decision. Obviously he has brought up the issue in a great way. But I think if he encourages other players or other people in the stands to sit down, it's going to send the wrong message.

Widespread anthem protests took place throughout the NFL on Sunday after President Donald Trump made comments throughout the weekend that those who knee for the anthem should be suspended or "fired."

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.