PITTSBURGH — Since the 1970s, nothing has more defined the identity of this city than its scrappy hometown football team. The Steelers rose at the same time the city’s economy sank, becoming a symbol of underdog hope.
They still had their Steelers even though the factories, mills and coal mines shuttered. They still had their Steelers as families were ripped apart, children forced to move away in search of opportunity.
“We bleed black and gold here,” said Sean Parnell, a Pittsburgh native and former US Army Airborne Ranger who served in the legendary 10th Mountain Division for six years, retiring as a captain.
“The Steelers are who we looked to as an example of achievement in the face of adversity, they were the ones who brought families and friends together every Sunday. They symbolized all that is good in us and it is hard to imagine a city in this country whose heart and soul is not more identified with their team than Pittsburghers are with the Steelers,” he said of what is affectionately called “Steeler Nation.”
But after the Steelers’ decision to not participate in the national anthem last Sunday,Parnell is not so sure about the strength of that nation.
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