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Steelers Decline To Explain Who Made Decision to Honor Antwon Rose Jr. on Helmets

A spokesman for the Pittsburgh Steelers indicated to Outkick Friday that it was the decision of the players — and not that of team officials — to honor Antwon Rose Jr. with helmet decals during Monday’s win over the New York Giants.

Rose was shot and killed by a police officer in June of 2018 after he and two others were pulled over following a drive-by shooting. The Steelers announced Monday that they planned to wear the helmet decals honoring Rose for the entire season.

In an email to Outkick, Steelers Director of Communications Burt Lauten said:  “As our Team President Art Rooney II said on Thursday, the organization supports and respects decisions our players may make relating to social justice activities. And we acknowledge there could be changes this Sunday for players relating to helmet decals. That will be an individual decision.”

The team’s statement was in response to questions from Outkick about who, specifically, made the decision to honor Rose and if anyone had studied the details of Rose’s criminal case before moving forward with plans for the helmet decals.

The statement contradicts comments from safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who said the sticker decision “came from upstairs.” He told the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette that the players “briefly” discussed the name that would appear on their helmets.

“We talked briefly about it, but it was mostly made by people upstairs,” Fitzpatrick told the paper. “Don’t know exactly who. Don’t know exactly how. We knew we were going to have someone on the back of our helmets. It wasn’t exactly clear on who it was going to be.”

Also on Thursday, Steelers offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey issued a statement saying he’d “inadvertently supported a cause of which I did not fully comprehend the entire background of the case.”

In June of 2018, Rose was a passenger in a car that was pulled over after being identified as being involved in a drive-by shooting. The car had bullet holes. East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld was in the process of handcuffing the driver when Rose and another passenger started running. Rosfeld later testified he thought one of the two pointed a gun at him, and he shot Rose, who was found to have gunshot residue on his hands and an empty 9-millimeter magazine his pocket. Rosfeld’s homicide trial lasted four days. He was found not guilty.

The only Steelers player who didn’t wear a helmet decal honoring Rose was offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva, who choose instead to commemorate Silver Star awardee Alwyn Cashe. Villanueva drew criticism for the decision, prompting the statement from Rooney II that the team referenced in Friday’s email to Outkick.

“As an organization, we respect the decisions of each player, coach and staff member relating to express themselves on social justice topics,” Rooney’s statement read. “We will continue to support our social initiatives to fight against social injustice and systematic racism not only in our area, but around the country.”

Rooney II has yet to specifically address the team’s decision to honor Rose.

Written by Jason King

Jason is a nationally-respected sports reporter and features writer who began his career in 1998 at The Kansas City Star. He covered the Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball team for seven years before moving on to stints as a national college reporter at Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com. From 2013-17, King was a Senior Writer at Bleacher Report, where his primary focus was longform features and profiles. He has authored three books on Kansas basketball.Jason’s work has received multiple mentions in the popular book series “Best American Sportswriting.” In 2015 and 2016, he was tabbed as one of the top five beat reporters in the nation by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

19 Comments

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    • Good George Floyd analogy. That’s what I was thinking. “Let’s Google who in Pittsburgh was shot by a cop.”

      But I’m also starting to rethink my criticism of all the players. Maybe they SHOULD know what they’re ostensibly supporting, but many of the guys are out of the loop and trying to stay on the 53 man roster! Maybe they need to be cut some some slack because they’re primarily focused on their jobs.

      Inevitably they follow the directives handed down from upstairs. It’s probable that Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney never heard of Antwon Rose Jr. until…last week?

  1. Jason this is a “he-said, she-said” situation. No one will admit to who said what first to whom. The great point about your column is some players are going to do what is right – know ALL the facts and made the best decision for themselves. Maybe this will start a trend throughout the sports world and players, coaches, and owners will break for the Woke Movement before it is too late. They under estimate the power of the fans.

  2. I think the focus needs to shift to what the players want to do, and that is play football! Obviously not everyone thinks putting names on a helmet and wearing some t-shirt will accomplish anything. The players know this, actually everyone knows this. Action is in the doing. Vince Williams made the biggest statement! Who is brave enough to follow? Will LeBron follow his lead?? Message to LeBron… Use your money to help instead of just believing what your sponsors tell you. I’m proud of the Steelers’ players coming out and calling BS. Whitlock has asked about players having the guts to speak up… Steelers’ players are stepping up to the plate! Btw… There is also this thing called the “Rooney rule”! Name one team or individual in the league that has stepped up. Even Jerry Jones caved to some degree. Protesting and words don’t do anything. Put your $$ into real change and that will lead to action for real change.

  3. “Systematic racism in our country.” Systematic? Yeah? Idk. Just had an African American President for like 8 years man…most of my 20s was Obama…but whatever.
    All good.
    *Giants/Ravens players standing for the black national anthem and then kneeling for our country’s national anthem DOES NOT APPLY*

  4. “We talked briefly about it, but it was mostly made by people upstairs,” Fitzpatrick told the paper. “Don’t know exactly who. Don’t know exactly how. We knew we were going to have someone on the back of our helmets. It wasn’t exactly clear on who it was going to be.”

    This statement is the definition of virtue signaling. Pretty much sums up the “commitment to the cause.” It’s mind-boggling how stupid these guys are as well as the general public who essentially employ the same passive acceptance of this bullshit.

    Vote Trump and straight Republican in November.

  5. The only thing systemic is the crimes these perps are committing against law abiding citizens and these NFL dummies always side with the criminals but i guess that’s their peeps. They don’t call it the national felon league for nuttin.

  6. I live in Pittsburgh and the shooting of Rose was very much publicized, like most police shootings. What was not publicized was that he was later identified as the shooter and he had gun shot residue on his hands. Regardless of whether he should have been shot, (cop was acquitted), he was involved in a felony crime and should not be celebrated. The Steelers really jacked this one up. One positive to come out of this is a few brave players thinking for themselves. Will be interesting to see who has what on their helmets today.

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