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NFL drops COVID hammer on 2 teams: Massive fines, lost draft pick for not following virus rules

The NFL wasn’t playing when it said it was going to implement and enforce more stringent COVID protocols. After sending a first round of fines following Week 2 of the season, the league levied even bigger fines and punishments on two teams this week, according to ESPN.

Not only did the fines total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also one team was stripped a 2021 draft pick.

Who screwed up?

The Las Vegas Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves in hot water this week. The NFL cracked down to the two clubs for violating the league’s increasingly stringent COVID protocols.

In September, Raiders coach Jon Gruden and his team were fined $100,000 and $250,000 respectively for Gruden’s failure to wear a mask on the sidelines during a game against the New Orleans Saints.

Now the team has suffered a new round of fines, and the have been stripped of their sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft, ESPN reported.

Gruden was fined another $150,000, and the club was dinged $500,000. A few players also faces smaller individual fines for violations.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter said the recent round of fines were based on three main violations:

? Coach Gruden has failed to wear a mask consistently.

Gruden has repeatedly apologized for his lax masking, noting “I’ve had the virus. I’m doing my best. I’m very sensitive about it.

? A number of players attended a large indoor gathering.

The event in question was an event for Raider tight end Darren Waller’s charity, the Waller Foundation on Oct. 5. Multiple players were at the charity event but were massless and mingling with the crowd.

? The team permitted an non-credentialed person into their locker room after a game.

Gruden said during a video news conference, “”I’m just going to say [I’m] very proud of our organization, how we’ve handled this entire protocol and this entire process and I’m not going to comment any further than that. We, as I said last week, I believe we’re on the cutting edge of being the best in servicing players and I’ll leave it at that,” ESPN reported.

The Steelers were fined a total of $350,000, according to a Friday morning EPSN report.

The team was slapped with a $250,000 fine for not wearing masks. And head coach Mike Tomlin was hit with a $100,000 penalty fo falling to wear a mask.

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Pittsburgh Steelers captain Maurkice Pouncey wears name of slain police officer on helmet

Pittsburgh Steelers center and co-captain Maurkice Pouncey said earlier this week that he was “unaware of the whole story” about the teen that the team was honoring. Pouncey said, “Moving forward, I will make my own decision about what to wear on the back of my helmet.” For Sunday’s Steelers game, Pouncey made his decision to pay tribute to a fallen police officer.

The Steelers announced that the team would honor Antwon Rose Jr., a Pittsburgh teen who was shot and killed by a police officer minutes after he was pulled over in a car that was reportedly involved in a drive-by shooting of two men. Steelers players will have the name “Antwon Rose Jr.” on the back of their helmets.

Pouncey, who wore Rose’s name on his helmet in the Week 1 game before learning about possible involvement in a drive-by shooting, wore the name “Eric Kelly” on his helmet this week.

Erick Kelly is one of three police officers who were killed and two others who were injured in a 2009 standoff in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh police officers responded to a domestic violence call, where a heavily armed 22-year-old man, who was reportedly wearing a bulletproof vest, fired at the cops from a barricaded house.

“Some of the wounded officers remained for a time where they fell because other officers could not reach them with bullets continuing to fly over their heads,” according to Diane Richard, Pittsburgh Police spokeswoman.

“Tell my wife and kids I love them,” a wounded Kelly told Officer Timothy McManaway before passing away.

Officer Kelly, a 14-year veteran of the force, was married and had three daughters, ages 11, 16, and 22. The other slain officers were Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo II.

It took more than four hours for over 100 officers from the city, the state, the district attorney’s office, the Port Authority, and the FBI to apprehend the shooter, Richard “Pop” Poplawski. He was armed with an AK-47 rifle, a .357 Magnum revolver, a .380-caliber handgun, and a .45-caliber handgun.

Despite the Steelers claiming that Pittsburgh players and coaches were “united as one to wear a single name on the back of their helmets and hats for the entire 2020 season,” other players have decided not to wear Rose’s name on their helmets.

Last week, Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva paid tribute to Alwyn Cashe, a U.S. Army sergeant who died while serving in Iraq in 2005. Cashe saved fellow servicemembers from an IED attack and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal.

On Sunday, Steelers running back Benny Snell wore “Breonna Taylor” on the back of his helmet, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had the phrase “It Takes All of Us” written on his helmet. Defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, running back James Conner, and wide receiver Diontae Johnson had “End Racism” written on their helmets.

Pittsburgh defensive end Stephon Tuitt and wide receiver James Washington reportedly did not have any names on their helmets. In July, Tuitt announced that he would not be kneeling during the national anthem during games.

Earlier this week, Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick revealed that the decision to honor Antwon Rose Jr. came from upper management and not players.

“It was made from people upstairs and everything else like that,” Fitzpatrick said. “Don’t know exactly who. Don’t know exactly how. But we did. We knew that we were going to have somebody on the back of our helmets, and it wasn’t exactly clear on what it was going to be. It was mostly made by everyone upstairs.”

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Pittsburgh Steelers co-captain goes against NFL, will decide who he honors on his helmet

Pittsburgh Steelers center and co-captain Maurkice Pouncey announced that he would decide whose name is on the back of his helmet, not who the Steelers or the NFL tell him to honor. Pouncey is going against the league, which is honoring a victim of a police shooting, who was also reportedly involved in a drive-by shooting.

On Monday, the Steelers announced that every player would wear a helmet decal honoring Antwon Rose Jr.

“This year the NFL is allowing players to wear helmet decals to honor victims of systemic racism,” the Steelers website stated. “Players could select the name of an individual to wear on their helmet and the Steelers players and coaches united as one to wear a single name on the back of their helmets and hats for the entire 2020 season – Antwon Rose Jr.”

“On the night of June 19, 2018, the car Antwon Rose Jr., who is black, was a passenger in was pulled over by the East Pittsburgh Police,” the website reads. “While the driver was being handcuffed on suspicion of being involved in an incident that happened earlier that evening, a frightened Rose fled from the car. The cell phone video a bystander captured showed Rose running, and then you could hear gunshots and see as he was fatally shot in the back three times by a white East Pittsburgh Police Officer.”

The Steelers played the New York Giants on Monday night. The Pittsburgh players, including Pouncey, had the name “Antwon Rose Jr.” on the back of their helmets. On Thursday, Pouncey announced that he regretted wearing the tribute and would not wear Antwon Rose’s name on the back of his helmet for the rest of the season.

“I was given limited information on the situation regarding Antwon, and I was unaware of the whole story surrounding his death and what transpired during the trial following the tragedy,” said Pouncey, who was named the Steelers’ 2019 nominee as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award for “exceptional character and work off the football field.” “I should have done more research to fully understand what occurred in its entirety.”

“My work with the police, both in Pittsburgh and back home in Florida, is well documented,” the Pittsburgh lineman said. “I don’t always feel the need to highlight what I do with the police departments, but I also want to make sure they understand I inadvertently supported a cause of which I did not fully comprehend the entire background of the case. I take responsibility for not doing more investigating into something that is sensitive to the community and his family, but it is a lesson learned as it relates to political issues that occur every day in our society.

“Moving forward, I will make my own decision about what to wear on the back of my helmet,” Pouncey continued. “Make no mistake, I am against racism and I believe the best thing I can do is to continue helping repair relationships between the police and their communities. Systemic racism issues have occurred in our country for too long, and that needs to stop.”

“My focus will continue to be on helping the police in our communities, and I will support making any necessary changes to help those efforts,” the statement concluded.

The “whole story” that Pouncey is alluding to is that the Steelers did not mention that Rose was reportedly in a vehicle matching the description of a car that had been involved in a drive-by shooting that happened about 10 minutes before Rose was shot. Rose’s friend, Zaijuan Hester, allegedly fired a gun from the rear passenger side of a gold Chevy Cruz, shooting Thomas Cole Jr. in the abdomen, and hitting William Ross in the leg with shrapnel, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Officer Michael Rosfeld pulled over the vehicle on suspicion of carrying out the drive-by shooting. A witness video of the incident shows Hester and Rose run away from the officer. Rosfeld fired three shots, all of them hit Rose; striking him in the face, elbow, and the back, according to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr.

Rose was unarmed at the time of the shooting, according to police. Daniel Wolfe, a scientist with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office, said gunshot residue was found on Rose’s hand. But it could have come from Rosfeld’s weapon.

There were two guns on the floor of the car. There was a 9 mm Glock 26 handgun with 16 rounds in the magazine that holds 17 rounds. The other gun was a .40-caliber Glock 22 with a live round in the chamber and an extended magazine with 18 rounds.

Rose had an empty 9 mm ammunition magazine in his pocket, which matched the 9 mm pistol in the car. Shell casings found at the scene of the drive-by shooting matched the .40-caliber Glock 22 pistol, according to police.

Hester, who was 17 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty on March 15, 2019, to charges related to the drive-by shooting, including three counts of aggravated assault and four firearms charges. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped a charge of attempted homicide. Hester was sentenced to 6 to 22 years in prison.

Rosfeld testified that he thought one of the teens had turned and pointed a gun at him. On March 22, Rosfeld was acquitted by a jury and found not guilty of homicide charges in the death of Antwon Rose.

For the past three seasons, Pouncey donated Steelers tickets to the Pittsburgh police so they could take young people from city neighborhoods to football games and enjoy a pregame tailgate party. Pouncey hopes the experience can build trust between young people and police officers.

“I think sometimes the message gets blurred some with some of the incidents,” Pouncey said. “The things we do in the community, and how Pittsburgh is, how involved they are in bringing up the youth and making sure everyone knows they do a lot of great things. To bring up the kids that way is awesome.”

“This gives the kids a chance to see the police beyond the uniform,” Pouncey added. “They are human. They are great people. They have kids and family members too. Just because they wear a badge you shouldn’t look at them a certain way. They are a lot of great people that help with a lot of great causes.”

Pouncey wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to object to honoring Antwon Rose Jr. on their helmet. Fellow Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva paid tribute to Alwyn Cashe, a U.S. Army sergeant who died while serving in Iraq in 2005.

Cashe was in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that hit an improvised explosive device during a patrol in Samarra, Iraq. He exited the vehicle with minor injuries, but when he saw there were injured soldiers in the burning vehicle, he went back to save them.

Cashe helped to rescue all six soldiers from the fiery vehicle and extracted the body of an interpreter killed by the IED. He was able to save the soldiers while under small arms fire. Cashe suffered severe burns on 72% of his body. He succumbed to his injuries and died on Nov. 8, 2005, at the San Antonio Military Medical Center in Texas. Cashe was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

The NFL has said that only pre-approved names could appear on helmets and would be reserved for victims of racial injustice. Cashe was not on the NFL’s pre-approved list.

The mother of Antwon Rose, Michelle Kenney, criticized Villanueva for not wearing her son’s name on his helmet.

“The Pittsburgh Steelers took a team vote. Obviously one person didn’t like the results so they chose to do something different,” Kenney wrote on Facebook. “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 July, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt said that he would not be kneeling during the national anthem. “I’m not kneeling for the flag and screw anybody who have [sic] a problem with that,” he said.

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Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Stephon Tuitt declares he will never kneel for the flag: ‘Screw anybody’ who’s got a problem with that

Kneeling for the flag during the national anthem might be all the rage for most NFL players, but do not count Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt among them.

And unlike some NFL stars who initially appeared to take a stand against kneeling and then backpedaled and apologized, he is making no bones about his stance and seems to have no plans to retreat.

In fact, he has a response for those who might have a problem with his refusal to take a knee: screw you.

What did he say?

In a tweet Monday morning, Tuitt had a message for football fans, social justice warriors, teammates, or coaches who are all in on the national anthem kneeling movement: “I’m not kneeling for the flag and screw anybody who have [sic] a problem with that.”

He went on to note how he would not show disrespect to the flag of the country where his family — starting with his grandmother — found a home and prospered. The star lineman added that his family of immigrants came to the United States “the right way.”

Tuitt said his “grandmother was a [sic] immigrant from the Carribbean” who “worked her ass off to bring 20 people over the right way.”

“She had no money and educated herself to be a nurse,” Tuitt wrote, adding that his family matriarch is “living good now.”

Tuitt’s position stands in stark contrast to some other NFL stars who have been caught up in respect-for-the-flag controversies.

Fellow Steeler Alejandro Villanueva — a U.S. Army Ranger veteran who graduated from West Point and served three tours in Afghanistan — famously stood alone for the national anthem as the rest of his team stood in the tunnel on Sept. 24, 2017. His move was initially seen as a defiant stance against protesting during the anthem and was celebrated by many football fans and conservatives. He later apologized for the move, saying he had made a mistake that “threw his teammates under the bus unintentionally,” and explained that the whole event was a mix-up.

More recently, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees came under fire for saying he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.”

“I love and respect my teammates, and I stand right there with them in regard to fighting for racial equality and justice,” Brees told Yahoo Finance in June. “I also stand with my grandfathers, who risked their lives for this country, and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis.”

Some of Brees’ teammates were upset over his remarks, including Malcolm Jenkins, who blasted his QB’s statement as “extremely self-centered.” Jenkins further stated, “We’re done talking, Drew. And people who share your sentiments, who express those and push them throughout the world, the airwaves, are the problem”

One day later, Brees was in apology mode: “I would like to apologize to my friends, teammates, the City of New Orleans, the black community, NFL community and anyone I hurt with my comments yesterday. In speaking with some of you, it breaks my heart to know the pain I have caused.”

“I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability,” he continued. “I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening … and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.”

(H/T: HotAir)

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Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger goes to the barber — and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is not happy about it

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent season-ending elbow surgery in September, just two weeks into the 2019 season. At the time, the veteran quarterback said he wouldn’t cut his hair or trim his beard again until he could throw “a legit NFL pass.”

This week, much to the delight of Steeler Nation, the team released a video of Big Ben completing passes during a workout with teammates.

But at least one well-known Pennsylvania resident was not happy about it: Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Why was the governor bent out of shape?

After the Steelers’ video showed footage of Roethlisberger throwing to running back James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the post cut to the all-star passer sitting in a barber chair with his hair cut and beard trimmed.

Image source: Twitter screenshot

That was a big problem for Wolf.

Reacting to the Roethlisberger video, the governor made it clear at a news conference Tuesday that he disapproved of anyone who would put themselves and others “in harm’s way” by patronizing businesses that should not be open yet as dictated by the state’s reopening plan, the Washington Post said.

“Anybody who puts himself or herself into harm’s way is something that I think we have to try to avoid,” he said.

Norman’s Cuttin’ Edge Barbershop where Roethlisberger got his trim is in a Pittsburgh suburb in Allegheny County, which, according to ESPN, has not moved past the governor’s “yellow phase” designation that requires the continued closure of all hair salons and barbershops. Those businesses can open once the county they are in has moved to the “green phase.”

“When you go to something like a barbershop and you’re not protected, I don’t care who you are, the chances of that virus wreaking havoc on your life increases,” Wolf stated. “I don’t think any Pennsylvanian ought to take that chance. I certainly don’t want to take that chance myself.”

ESPN reported that the shop’s owner, Carlos Norman, is friends with Roethlisberger. According to Norman’s lawyer, the shop has been closed since the governor’s initial shutdown order, though he did cut the quarterback’s hair as a favor and for free.