Stephon Tuitt is First Black NFL Player to Say He Won't Take a Knee This Season

The sight of players kneeling during the national anthem ahead of NFL games could be common this season, but Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt has no intention of joining some of his colleagues taking the knee.

The gesture has developed into a thorny political issue ssince former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the anthem to protest against racial discrimination and police brutality in 2016.

In the weeks following George Floyd's killing on May 25, several NFL players pledged to emulate Kaepernick and take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement when the season begins on September 10.

Tuitt, however, made clear he will stand when The Star-Spangled Banner rings out before Steelers games this season.

"I'm not kneeling for the flag and screw anybody who have a problem with that," the former Notre Dame alumnus, a second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, wrote on Twitter on Monday.

"My grandmother was a immigrant from the Carribean and worked her ass off to bring 20 people over the right way. She had no money and educated herself to be a nurse. She living good now."

In a series of previous tweets, Tuitt had urged players "to stop worrying about the public and people who tell them what to do with their money and educate themselves."

Last month, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made clear players who choose to kneel during the anthem this season will receive the franchise's full support.

"Our position is simple: We're going to support our players and their willingness to participate in this, whether it's statements or actions," he said.

On Sunday, former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka said players who disrespect the anthem should "get the hell out of the country."

Speaking to TMZ Sports, the 80-year-old said: "If you can't respect our national anthem, get the hell out of the country. That's the way I feel. Of course, I'm old-fashioned. I'm only going to say what I feel."

While Tuitt is determined to stand during the anthem, several of his colleagues will be taking a knee when the season begins in September.

Last month, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield vowed to kneel during the anthem, while Washington veteran running back Adrian Peterson said he would "no doubt" take a knee and that a large number of players planned to join the demonstration.

"Just four years ago, you're seeing [Colin] Kaepernick taking a knee, and now we're all getting ready to take a knee together going into this season, without a doubt," he told the Houston Chronicle in June.

Speaking to the same publication, Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien echoed the sentiment.

Texans head coach Bill O'Brien also vocally backed the players' right to protest and indicated he will join the demonstrations.

"Yeah, I'll take a knee—I'm all for it," he said.

Bears safety Jordan Lucas also plans to kneel, while Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods expects protests to be widespread.

Players planning to take a knee found an unexpected ally in the NFL last month, as commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the league had not done enough to address the issue of racism and encouraged players to "protest peacefully."

The issue of kneeling reared its head again last week, when players took a knee during a minute of silence ahead of the national anthem before the New York Yankees played the Washington Nationals in the first game of the MLB season on Thursday.

Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants players and coaches followed suit later on Thursday, with Dodgers' outfielder Mookie Betts and Giants manager Gabe Kapler also taking a knee during the anthem.

President Donald Trump condemned players kneeling during the national anthem, claiming the gesture "would hurt a lot of people" in the U.S. and that Americans don't want to see protests while the flag is being raised.

Trump has been an outspoken critic of players kneeling during the anthem since Kaepernick first took a knee four years ago and has repeatedly depicted the gesture as disrespectful and unpatriotic.

Stephon Tuitt, Pittsburgh Steelers
Stephon Tuitt #91 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 30, 2019 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Justin K. Aller/Getty