Ah, to be 23 years old again.

Sitting here at age 46, my blood pressure is too high, blood sugar is who knows what, and my creaking bones aren’t agreeing with this minor cool front that blew through Florida late on Monday.

Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans, who is just 23, will most likely look back 23 more years from now on his decision to not stand for the National Anthem as a youthful error in judgment.

While I totally agree with his right to protest anything he chooses to, deciding that platform to do it on probably wasn’t his best decision. With hundreds of military personnel being honored during the Bucs’ Salute to Service celebration, plus thousands more who shelled out their hard earned dollars to sit in the stands to watch a three-win football team, Evan chose to sit as the Star Spangled Banner was sung – not by some random contest-winning karaoke singer off the streets, but by the 82nd Airborne Division’s “All-American” Chorus!

I have always lived by the motto, taken from the old 1970 hit by JD. South, Walk A Mile In My Shoes. My parents taught me to withhold judgment on people without knowing what makes them who they are.

Part of the lyrics go, “Walk a mile in my shoes, Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse, Walk a mile in my shoes.” I am a middle-aged, middle-class, Caucasian male, who hasn’t dealt with much racism. I didn’t grow up as a mixed-race minority in Texas like Evans did. I didn’t have to lose my father to a murder by my uncle as a nine-year old. I have no idea what Evans had had to deal with in his life, therefore I would never judge him or his political beliefs.

However, I also have a right to my opinion, and believe he chose the wrong way to voice his displeasure over the election of Donald Trump. And thousands of Bucs fans also felt, Evans went about it the wrong way in my opinion. Especially after it was revealed he may not of even voted in this year’s presidential election.

Evanspractice8-11And now obviously Evans himself realizes he could have went about it in a different and more respectful way.

I applaud Evans for his statement that was released on Tuesday morning.

“I want to start by apologizing to all the U.S. military members, their families, and the fans who I offended by my actions on Sunday. It was never my intention as I have tremendous respect for the men and women who serve our country. I have very strong emotions regarding some of the many issues that exist in our society today. I chose to sit as an expression of my frustration towards this year’s election. It was very personal for me, as it was for so many Americans. With that being said, I will not sit again during the National Anthem because I want to focus my efforts on finding more effective ways to communicate my message and bring about change by supporting organizations and movements that fight for equal rights for minorities. This Sunday, I will be back to standing with my teammates.”

Evans is as fine a young man as you meet inside the Bucs locker room. He’s quiet, friendly and humble. Despite being one of the NFL’s best at his position, Evans is as polite to the janitors at One Buc as he is to one of the Glazers. There is no sense of entitlement, no air of superiority, just a good, young man, husband and father.

Which leads me to another point. The thing that disturbed me the most about the feedback about Evans’ decision to sit for the National Anthem, was the number of people who contacted me directly to tell me they will no longer support Evans, the Bucs and even the NFL. Even if you have lost respect for Evans as a person based on his political view and his decision to not stand on Sunday, why should you punish the other 52 players on the active roster? Why punish the organization who spends a ton of money in donations and does so much for the local military at Mac Dill Air Force Base here in Tampa? Why punish the entire locker room for the actions of one?

I found it ironic that many who were criticizing Evans and then lumping all NFL players in one basket because of the action of a few, are the same ones who detest those who protest all police officers because of the actions of a few bad cops. Pot meet kettle.

Bucs WR Mike Evans celebrates after catching a fourth-quarter TD

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

Some called the Bucs and the NFL a bunch of overpaid punks. The word thug was tossed around, and make no mistake there is, at the very least a hint of veiled racism in that word. Are there entitled spoiled brats who make bad decisions in some NFL locker rooms? You bet. But guess what? Look around your office, your church, your civic club or any place where several gather and you’ll find the same thing. Of course they aren’t on a national stage, so they don’t draw the attention that professional athletes do.

I see the good that many of these Buccaneer players do. I saw Vincent Jackson spend 15 minutes with a friend of mine who is a retired military member battling cancer after a hot training camp practice last August. I saw quarterback Jameis Winston personally go over and shake hands with the military members of the field prior to the game on Sunday. I have seen the Bucs players who shave their heads and make personal financial contributions to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation each June.

And I witnessed Evans literally drop to his knees with painful cramps after a training camp practice while signing autographs for fans. And you know what he did after a few minutes? He went back to signing autographs until the horn sounded for the players to go back in the facility to complete their day. Yes, that same Mike Evans who many wanted the Bucs to cut or suspend.

And those are just a handful of the things that get reported. I know of many other random acts of kindness that Bucs players have done that they have asked not to be reported.

I disagree completely with Evans’ platform that he used to make a political statement, but as some veterans who actually came out in support of Evans, and even Colin Kaepernick, have said, their sacrifices made it possible to live in a country where people are free to protest. Even if we don’t agree.

On a personal note, growing up there was a sepia-toned framed photo that hung on the living room wall of my Granny Cook’s house, the one I live in today, and am sitting in as I write this. It was of a fine, strapping young man, smiling, alive in his prime. I remember asking her as a child who it was. She explained it was my grandfather’s brother who was drafted late during WWII and who had died during the war in Germany.

Not much was ever discussed about my Uncle Odell, as you could tell even after all those years, the pain was great. After my grandmother died in 1995, I was going through the old family Bible and found a letter written in pencil from my uncle. It was dated April 13, 1945. Enclosed was a small cut out piece of newspaper announcing he was killed on April 21, 1945. The Germans surrendered seven days later. The family undoubtedly received his letter weeks after they found out he had died.

Private Odell Cook's Purple Heart and dog tags

Private Odell Cook’s Purple Heart and dog tags – Photo: Mark Cook/PR

My tears fell as I folded it all back up and placed it back in the Bible. An overwhelming sense of pride welled up in me, so now when the National Anthem is played, and even if we are home in front of our televisions, we stand. My son thinks I am crazy. But that’s okay. It’s personal to me.

My great Uncle Odell died protecting the freedoms we all benefit from, and those include Evans, Kaepernick or any person in this country who chooses not to stand for the National Anthem or who chooses to march in protest of civil rights inequality or even disagreement with who was elected president. We don’t have to agree, but those rights were protected by the blood of many, including my Uncle Odell B. Cook.

I have somewhat strayed from my original intent and that was to ask Bucs fans who disagreed with Evans to chalk up his decision as one of youthful indiscretion. I think in time he’ll regret the manner in which he protested – and that’s not to deny him his reason to protest or the right to protest.

Let’s forgive and forget, and try to think back to where where our minds were when we were 23 years old.

Evans is a good guy, a great football player and by all accounts a terrific father and husband. Bucs fans should be proud to have a player of Evans character, and talent on their team. Even if they disagreed with his stance last Sunday.

“Before you abuse, criticize and accuse, Walk a mile in my shoes.”

Good advice for all of us.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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areohwhy10
areohwhy10 (@areohwhy10)
5 years ago

Wasn’t mad to begin with, nothing to forgive.

bucsmaniac
bucsmaniac (@bucsmaniac)
5 years ago

I would of sat with him! Go Bucs!

seat26
seat26 (@seat26)
5 years ago

I live on Social Security. This election could be devastating to Seniors. I agree with him.

Keith F
Keith F (@gun2819)
5 years ago

Great article! I hope Mike Evans and Koetter knows you wrote this piece because a lot of times the media will condemn someone the first chance the opportunity presents itself! People judge way too quickly and I hope this goes away. You can tell the guy is a good dude and like you said he’s only 23.

BTW, personally I was never upset and not because he plays for a team I love. Now, if ASJ did it, I might feel differently…too soon. Just a joke people!

Horse
Horse (@horse)
5 years ago

An apology is good enough for me. I was never angry or mad in my comment about Evans in a past Article. I simply sais “this was neither the place nor time…. and I hope he doesn’t do it again”.

SenileSenior
SenileSenior (@xpfcwintergreen)
5 years ago

I will forgive him as such. He is just another normal young man to me.

As I mentioned elsewhere I am a Vietnam War veteran. I also forgave Jane Fonda years ago. What she did was much more egregious and occurred during the time I served. She has made a public apology to America that I heard, with my own two ears, twice over a span of many years. There are some , veterans or others, across the country who will never forgive her. So be it.

_
Now I will shut up and return to football issues.

Go Bucs!!!

Horse
Horse (@horse)
Reply to  XpfcWintergreen
5 years ago

XpfcWintergreen, thank you for your service. I have never been able to forgive Jane Fonda. Many years ago I met Bud Day and as I shook his hand his fingers were a mess from all the torture and I’m sure most of his body had also taken severe beatings. Nope no respect for her at all.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27 (@cgmaster27)
5 years ago

I personally never had a problem with him having the right to do so. I just think he did it on the wrong day and in the wrong way. I’m glad he’;s pulled back a little on this and is trying to find a more constructive way to do some good. The bucs fans calling to cut him or trade him are just foolish.

Devan
Devan (@di04)
5 years ago

I’ve never commented but I have been a long time reader here at PR. What brought me out of the woods? The need to tell Mark Cook that this is one of the most beautiful articles that you have ever written. I love good writing and the personal touch with your uncle was just awesome. Your writing is always good, but this one I just had to praise aloud.

fredster
fredster (@fredster)
5 years ago

Glad he apologized it was a really stupid thing to do without doubt.

I’m moving on. I want this to not be a distraction anymore and hopefully they Can just prepare for KC. NFL has so many negatives and guys with questionable character. It’s partly why viewing is down. Last hint we needed here in Tampa was another negative.

plopes808
plopes808 (@plopes808)
5 years ago

I wasn’t mad personally, I guess disappointed is a better word . As veterans, we fought for his right to protest, he just chose a horrible time and place. Either Evans or his PR guys made a nice play on the apology, I just hope it was from his heart and not just a PR ploy.

Now get back to the field and rack up more touchdowns Big Mike!

buccaneerNW
buccaneerNW (@buccaneernw)
5 years ago

Forgive?

Forgive? Like he did something wrong? I applaud his stance. All forms of protest of Drumpf are on the table, as far as I’m concerned.

Maybe those who voted for a fascist a$$clown should ask forgiveness from the rest of us. That seems more in order. And no, it isn’t forgivable. Drumpf hired a white supremacist and a climate denier already. I’m just waiting to see if he can stoop even lower. Maybe the head of the KKK at department of justice? That would seem to be right in line for this jackwagon.

JohnBuc06
JohnBuc06 (@johnbuc06)
Reply to  buccaneerNW
5 years ago

No need to bring in the KKK into this discussion …Bannon will ensure Trump knows where they stand on policy.

Back to Evans he has every right to peacefully protest but I am personally glad he has chosen to stand for the anthem …that type of protest is one of those grey lines that people on both sides can twist into whatever narrative they want. Hopefully he learns (as should Cap) is the best way to voice your political opinion is to VOTE!

cgmaster27
cgmaster27 (@cgmaster27)
Reply to  buccaneerNW
5 years ago

It sounds to me like you’re in need of a pacifier, like the rest of the losers protesting. I voted Trump and won’t apologize for shit. So stop acting like anyone owes you anything. That liberal “woah is me” mindset is what got Trump elected in the first place. Maybe you should be apologizing to other for Trump getting elected.

buccaneerNW
buccaneerNW (@buccaneernw)
Reply to  cgmaster27
5 years ago

Well, you voted for a racist, misogynist, climate denying snake oil salesman. You voted for someone with a narcissistic personality, a twitter trolling hate dispenser. There is no way this guy should be president of anything. He’s a disgrace of a human, a fascist a$$clown. This isn’t “woe is me”, it’s simply bad for everyone — this is going to be a disaster of epic proportions. And all those poor rural voters who he conned into voting for him are going to suffer more than anyone. This jackwagon threatens to shut down media that says negative things about him!!! Fascist… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette (@chetthevette)
Reply to  buccaneerNW
5 years ago

Beautifully said. Thought I was listening to Olberman.

BKNYfootballhead
BKNYfootballhead (@bknyfootballhead)
5 years ago

Hopefully our president-elect will learn from Mike Evans on how to apologize appropriately without defection. Doubtful.

BUC 727
BUC 727 (@buc727)
5 years ago

I just hope that anyone that was offend by Mike Evans protest was not a POW. In Trump’s world, that would make you a double loser.

Matthew
Matthew (@bolts12)
5 years ago

Any Bucs fan who turns their back on Evans should be ashamed. HE choose a very poor time to do it but it is his right to protest as he pleases. I am glad he has chosen not to sit during the anthem anymore though because it causes such an unnecessary distraction. Ill always support you Mike. Go Bucs!

kram0789
kram0789 (@kram0789)
5 years ago

No need to forgive him. Free speech after all. Besides, I support Evans.

JayBuc52
JayBuc52 (@jaybuc52)
5 years ago

Well, after being disappointed in Evans for a day or so, he has regained my respect. It is not what he believes that I objected to, rather it was the fact that he chose to do it by sitting down for the national anthem, especially on a day honoring our military. While he has every right to do so, he dishonored them and all of us for which the flag is an emblem of freedom. Make your statements, become an activist, oppose the policies; that is your right, but do it in more productive and appropriate ways. We may not… Read more »

fredster
fredster (@fredster)
5 years ago

BucaneerNW you are total left wing loon. All forms of protest are on the table because your liar sack of crap Hillary lost? You sound like the fascist here. Really all forms of protest like illegal,violent,riots? Like the ones going on right now? Protest and cry all you want he’s president for 4 years and after the economy improves and jobs come back maybe you will quit your hysteria. As far as me apologizing to you? Lol. Dream on. How about apologizing to me for 8 years of Obama disaster. My healthcare costs have doubled,Isis emerged and is out of… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27 (@cgmaster27)
Reply to  fredster
5 years ago

Can’t like this post enough Fredster. We’ll probably be called sexist, racist, homophobes by the uneducated shortly.

diablo5597
diablo5597 (@kenlola)
5 years ago

Millions of American serviceman have died protecting free and open elections in America. What is happening in our country is the ultimate insult to our fallen heroes. Elections are being rigged. Huge numbers of Americans are blocked from voting. The DNC conspired against Bernie Sanders and shoved Hillary down our throats. The super rich-owned media gave Trump huge amounts of air time to ensure Trump would be their hand-picked Republican candidate thinking even crooked Hillary could beat Trump. This is the ultimate insult to our troops and an act of treason, but no one raises hell about that. But an… Read more »

chetthevette
chetthevette (@chetthevette)
5 years ago

Mike, keep your chin up. Find a way to support your causes that matter. It’s just football man. Protesting is fine when it’s in the proper venue, but people think that players are just rich spoiled kids that are just drawing attention to themselves. I feel for you though, it’s going to be a difficult transition for sure. But rest assured that the checks and balances will work. Calmer heads will prevail and keep things sane in our government. Unfortunately racism is still very present in the good ole US of A. But don’t fear, as your generation grows older… Read more »