Steelers offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey announced on Thursday that he would make his own choice as to what name he would place on the back of his helmet as part of the team’s social justice initative. He is the second player on the team to break from the decision to honor Antwon Rose Jr., who in 2018 was shot and killed by Pittsburgh police.
Pouncey, a known advocate for police communities in Pittsburgh and his hometown of Lakeland, Fla., addressed police directly in his statement, saying he “inadvertently supported a cause which I did not fully comprehend.”
“Make no mistake, I am against racism and I believe the best thing I can do is to continue helping.”
Rose’s 2018 death arose after police determined the car he was riding in matched the description of one involved in a drive-by shooting. Rose, who was unarmed, fled from the car and was shot three times in his back, face and elbow by East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld.
Rosfeld was charged with criminal homicide but was acquitted of all charges. But the video showing Rose’s death sparked outrage and protests in Pittsburgh, and his name is still used as a rallying cry by protesters. Prior to Monday’s season-opener, the Steelers elected to present a united front by wearing Rose’s name on the back of their helmets throughout the 2020 season.
Steelers owner Art Rooney II in a statement offered support to Pouncey and the way he expresses himself regarding social justice issues:
Pouncey joins offensive lineman Al Villanueva in choosing to honor someone else on the back of his helmet. Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, was the only player to break from the team’s decision in its “Monday Night Football” win over the Giants. He instead chose Alwyn Cashe, a Black soldier killed on duty in Iraq and who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for heroism. Villanueva told Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin of his decision beforehand, though he reportedly surprised his teammates.