Antwon Rose Jr.’s mom sees’ middle ground ‘with Steelers’ Maurkice Pouncey, Alejandro Villanueva


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When Michelle Kenney started reading Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey’s Instagram post in which he indicated he would remove her son’s name from his football helmet, she was initially offended and disappointed.

“But when I read the bottom of it,” said Kenney, mother of Antwon Rose Jr., “I was a little more upbeat because I said, ‘It looks like we have things in common. . We want to work for this community to be better and obviously he thinks policing is a problem.

“’Even if we don’t share the same (point of view), I believe that together we would be a better force.’ ‘

In a telephone interview Thursday night, Kenney offered a more conciliatory tone to Steelers players whose actions in the previous 72 hours had angered her. Days earlier, coach Mike Tomlin called Kenney to tell him that the entire roster had voted to wear the helmet throughout the season with his son’s name on the back.

But then tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva didn’t have Rose’s name but that of late Army Sergeant Alwyn Cashe on his helmet when Monday’s season opener. The next day, Tomlin said Villanueva discussed the change with him.

Veteran linebacker Vince Williams said publicly on Wednesday that there had been no vote and that he didn’t even know whose name was going to be on his helmet. And then came Thursday’s Instagram post in which Pouncey sought to “clarify” to law enforcement that he “was not aware of the whole story surrounding (Rose) ‘s death” and that he “was” would make my own decision as to who to wear on the back of my helmet. ”

“I was personally offended by this,” Kenney said, “(and) not because he was a supporter of law enforcement. It was because he assumed I wasn’t.

“I always say that I am not a supporter of cutting police funding. I’m actually an advocate for law enforcement – I just want to change the way we police in the state of Pennsylvania.

Pouncey is a strong advocate for law enforcement issues. Rose, 17, died in 2018 after being shot three times in the back by East Pittsburgh cop Michael Rosfeld. Pouncey wrote that he “received limited information” about the meeting between Rosfeld – who was acquitted last year – and two others.

The Steelers left out details of the case when the team honored Rose.

Rose was a passenger in a vehicle that had been pulled over for being involved in a drive-by shootout minutes earlier in North Braddock. Another teenager, Zaijuan Hester, later pleaded guilty to being the shooter. Surveillance footage from the drive-by shooting showed Hester firing from the back seat of a gold Chevy Cruze.

Neither Pouncey nor Villanueva spoke to the media this week.

“Most of the time I just wondered why none of these people even tried to talk to me or ask me what I thought or found out about Antwon other than what the negative press (and) negative people are saying” , Kenney said.

“They didn’t know (Rose).”

Kenney said other than a community relations representative, no one from the Steelers had contacted her since Tomlin’s call before the start of the season.

Kenney also clarified that he was definitely told that the players on the team voted to honor his son and that each player would wear his name on his helmet for the all season.

“I was in disbelief,” she said, “so I asked the question three times to make sure I heard it.”

Kenney pointed out that “it would have been 100% OK with me” if Villanueva had asked him if he could honor Cashe, a black recipient of the Silver Star for Bravery who died of burns from a bombing raid after attempted to rescue fellow duty while on duty in Iraq.

“And let me be very clear: the color of the individual’s skin wouldn’t have mattered to me either,” Kenney said. “I believe in freedom of choice, and he could have represented anyone he wanted. This is not what he did; that was how he did it.

“Personally, I don’t feel like the public (or) the media gives veterans or (serving military personnel) the respect they deserve. … It was never, for me, a competition or me to be upset that he chose to replace the name Antwon.

Kenney has dedicated his life advocating for police reform, and when Tomlin told him the Steelers were determined to help, “(Rose’s) name on the helmet was just a bonus.

“The Steelers are an entity that has the financial resources and the support to move the movement forward,” Kenney said. “They represent the city of Pittsburgh, and I am fighting for those in the state of Pennsylvania. I think it’s a perfect match. I don’t know how it turned out to negativity.

Still, with time for reflection, Kenney struggles to use Pouncey and Villanueva’s choices as a pivot point. She said she would appreciate a conversation with either because she doesn’t see the headset situation as disagreeing with either over the issues that matter to her.

“I’m not trying to criticize the police, I don’t think all cops are bad, I’m not anti-police,” Kenney said. “I just want them to have some responsibility and be better at policing the communities they serve. That’s all. It really is that simple.

Chris Adamski is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] ou via Twitter.

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