Mike Evans’ decision to sit during the National Anthem, a protest of the election of Donald Trump, quickly became a national story on Sunday.
Unsurprisingly, the controversial demonstration dominated Dirk Koetter’s press conference the next day. The Bucs coach would’ve preferred to discuss his team’s commanding 36-10 win over the Bears, its first home victory of the season, and while the latter half of the presser covered just that, Koetter knew what he was in for as he took the podium.
“I might need my glasses today,” Koetter joked, holding a paper with comments he made in August about Colin Kaepernick. “I better get them ready,” he said while putting the glasses on.
Koetter was asked about everything from his initial reaction to Evans’ protest, to his concern of it becoming a distraction for the team, to a possible fan fallout, and a few more, sometimes rephrased questions. Here’s the transcript of the first eight minutes of Monday’s press conference.
(On reaction to Evans’ protest)
“I’m exactly the same today. I’m exactly the same as what I said in August, when the Colin Kaepernick stuff started. I’m exactly the same and I stand by that. I certainly stand by the statement released by the organization. I think that sums it up pretty well.”
(On aware of Evans decision before the game)
(On if he spoke to Evans afterward)
“I was texting with Mike last night, yes. Players are off (Monday), and I’ll speak with Mike on Wednesday. Of course, that conversation will be between me and him.”
(On concern of Evans’ protest becoming a distraction)
“Well, I hope it doesn’t affect our team. That’s something that I’ll take whatever measures necessary, that I think are necessary, to try to minimize what affect it has on our team. I’m really not sure. This is unchartered water for me, and I’m not sure about any of that.”
(On concerned Evans’ protest will lose fans, and advice he would give Evans)
“Well, I’m not going to speak for Mike in any form at all. And I’m not going to get into any advice that I would give Mike. As far as me talking to the fans, I think the organization put out a great statement and we really want the fans to come out. Heck, I’m dying to get the fans out there and fill Ray Jay up. We have to play better football. The better football we play, I think the more they’ll come. I think we took a good step in that direction yesterday. That’s my statement on that.”
(On reaction to fans who say they might boycott)
“I don’t have control over that. This is all stuff you’re telling me. This is all news to me. I’ve been working on getting ready for Kansas City all day, so I don’t really have a reaction. I’d be disappointed because I want to fill that place up, but that’s Dirk Koetter talking. That’s my personal opinion.”
(On if he thinks protest will deflate effort to engage fans)
“I’m not sure. I’m not sure if it will or it won’t. I don’t know.”
(On if there’s any indication that other players will join)
“I have not talked to any of the players. Like I said, I didn’t know about this until after the game. It didn’t come up in front of me in the locker room. By the time I was aware of this, most of the players were showered and mostly gone. The players are off today, so I’ve only talked to maybe two players today and it wasn’t about this.”
(On if timing of protest, on Military Appreciation Day, could’ve been better)
“Again, I didn’t have anything to do with the timing so I’m not the right person to ask about that. Maybe you guys can get the chance to talk to Mike on Wednesday. I’m not the person to ask. Let me say this, Military Appreciation Day at the stadium yesterday, I thought, was awesome. I personally took pictures with a ton of Military personnel on the field. I shook a ton of hands on the field. I saw other players doing the same thing. I thought the display by the Military and the fly-over, the choir that sang before the game – I thought that was awesome. Right when the National Anthem – Jameis stands by me during the National Anthem – that Military choir sang, and when that was over, I turned and looked at Jameis and said, ‘If that doesn’t get you fired up, I don’t know what will.’”
(On his statement in August about Colin Kaepernick’s protest)
“I can read it to you. I don’t have it memorized (laughs), but they have it for me in really small print. [Reading] Okay, I said, ‘We, believe it or not, have practiced how to line up for the National Anthem. We’ve worked on it. I don’t know if our organization has the right to tell a guy that he needs to do that. I would be disappointed if any of our players didn’t stand up for the National Anthem personally. I look at that as a salute to the people who have paved the way for us, but at the same time, this is a free country. And I think freedom of speech is something we all believe in, and freedom of expression. That’s an individual’s choice. That’s a fine line there. I would personally be disappointed, but I think it would be hard to enforce that rule.’ [Speaking to the media] If you remember, the question was, at that point, coach Jeff Fisher said that [the Rams] were going to have some kind of team rule requiring players to stand for the National Anthem, which I don’t think ever materialized.”
(On if he’s disappointed in Evans’ protest)
“Yeah, I’m disappointed for that. But, again, I also respect Mike’s freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
(On if he got the impression that the election divided the locker room at all, mentioning that some companies have asked employees not to discuss politics)
“I wouldn’t want to work at one of those companies. Would you? How was it at your company? I’m sure there are a lot of discussions of a lot of topics in our locker room, some of which I know about, some of which I don’t. I’m not sure.”
(On what he would tell the fans)
“I think we already asked that. Didn’t I already say let’s fill Ray Jay up? We need to play better football and we need all the help we can get. Appreciate our fans. There are so many great fans out there that we talk to every week. We’ll do our part. Continue to do yours. We need you.”