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Steelers banner emblazoned with swastika creates stir in West Deer

Tony LaRussa
ptrsteelersswastika092717jpg
WPXI
West Deer resident Anton Uhl expressed his displeasure with the Pittsburgh Steelers not taking the field during the playing of the national anthem on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, by painting a swastika over a Steelers banner in his yard. He has since removed the banner.

A West Deer man showed his displeasure over the Steelers’ decision not to take the field Sunday for the national anthem by painting a swastika on a team banner outside his house.

Residents said they contacted Tribune-Review news partner WPXI-TV about the banner because they were too upset to confront the home’s owner.

But Anton Uhl, who served in the Army, said the team’s decision to stay off the field was an insult to veterans.

So he painted a red swastika on the Steelers banner as a statement, not, he said, because he supports Nazis.

“I’m upset the Rooneys didn’t want to participate in the national anthem,” Uhl told the TV station. “So to me, they’re anti-American.

“There’s a lot of kids that want to play football. You don’t need to pay millions of dollars for these people to stand in some type of, kneeling down, giving disrespect for everything,” he said.

One neighbor said Uhl’s action went too far.

“It’s worse than anything the players did,” said Richard Bartkowski. “They just took a knee or not showed up,”

But Uhl said he has a right to voice his concerns.

“My choice,” he said. “I find it was upsetting not to have patriotic participation.”

Uhl said he does not blame the team as much as he blames its owner.

“If they want to demonstrate, they have every right to do that,” Uhl said. “Out of uniform in a public forum, not in a uniform representing the Rooneys.”

Sitting or kneeling during the national anthem as a sign of protest over racial inequality and police brutality was started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

More than 200 NFL players sat or kneeled Sunday during the anthem in response to President Trump’s call for owners to fire players who protest.

On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II tried to clear up what he called a “misperception” about the team’s actions before Sunday’s kickoff.

Rooney said players never intended to stage a boycott of the national anthem.

“The intentions of Steelers players were to stay out of the business of making a political statement by not taking the field,” Rooney said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “Unfortunately, that was interpreted as a boycott of the anthem — which was never our players’ intention.”

All of the teams’ players except left tackle Alejandro Villanueva remained in the Soldier Field tunnel during the national anthem before Sunday’s loss to the Chicago Bears, prompting massive fallout from fans on both sides of the issue.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368, [email protected] or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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