The mother of police shooting victim Antwon Rose Jr. is speaking out after Steelers offensive lineman covered up Rose's name on the back of his helmet and replaced it with Alwyn Cashe, a decorated war hero, who sacrificed his life to save six fellow soldiers.
Not mentioning Villanueva by name, Michelle Kenney, Rose's mother, said while she has nothing against vets, it was a team decision to honor his son by having his name on the back of their helmets all season.
The message in full reads: Let me very very very clear. The Pittsburgh Steelers took a team vote. Obviously one person didn’t like the results so they chose to do something different. I have nothing against vets and absolutely appreciate everything that they have done and continue to do for us. But this one person showed us exactly who he is and obviously he didn’t approve of how the vote turned out. In my opinion; that’s for his coach, team and organization to address NOT ME! While he was so busy being negative what it actually did now forced more people to engage in this conversation. I’m going to use this negative press and negativity to motivate me to hold the Pittsburgh Steelers even more accountable!!! Yes I believe in second chances but as we all know I believe in putting in the work and that’s how I base my collaborations. They came to me as a team/organization and I don’t care how good of an individual you are; if you are not a TEAM player then maybe you are playing for the wrong team!!! You can’t stop nothing god put in motion and I’m here for the long haul. Touchdown baby!!
On Tuesday during his weekly press conference, Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that Villanueva approached him about honoring Sergeant first class Cashe and Tomlin said as long as it is done in a respectful manner, he will allow his players to express themselves.
"As an organization and my self as a head coach of the organization, we're going to support our players in however the choose to participate and express themselves or to not participate and or not express themselves as long as they do so thoughtfully and with class," said Tomlin.
The team announced on Monday before their first game that each helmet would have the name of Antwon Rose Jr. on the back all season.
Rose was a 17-year-old Black teen fatally shot by an East Pittsburgh Police Officer in June, 2018 while fleeing the scene of an incident.
That officer, Michael Rosfeld, was acquitted of murder charges.
Cashe, a Black man and Sergeant first class in the U.S. Army, gave his life to rescue fellow soldiers after an improvised explosive device caused damage to the Bradley tank he was in while on a route clearance mission in Iraq in October 2005.
Cashe, covered in fuel, helped rescue six fellow soldiers, pulling them from the burning vehicle, all while his uniform continued to burn.
Cashe refused to be rescued by medical staff until this fellow soldiers were tended to.
With burns to over 70 percent of his body, Cashe died under a month after the incident.
Cashe posthumously was awarded the Silver Star for heroism and there are calls that he be awarded the Medal of Honor, a call that is backed by the Pentagon.
Villanueva served as an Army Ranger and received a Bronze Star for valor and served three tours of duty in Afghanistan.