The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were winless at Raymond James Stadium this year until a decisive, 36-10 thrashing of the visiting Chicago Bears on Sunday. Instead of reveling in a long-awaited home victory – the fourth in the last 21 home games – Bucs fans are left scratching their heads over what to make of superstar wide receiver Mike Evans’ decision to sit for the National Anthem.
President-elect Donald Trump – Photo by: Getty Images
Instead of celebrating the fact that the Bucs are now 4-5 and back into the discussion for the NFC South title with Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans all losing on Sunday, Evans’ reasoning for sitting down because the American people went to the polls to elect Donald Trump to be the 45th President of the United States of America is now under scrutiny.
“I told myself, ‘If this character (Donald Trump) – I’m not big on politics or things like that – but I told myself, ‘If this happens, then America is not right right now.’ I said it a long time ago. When he ran I thought it was a joke. The joke continues.
“As long as he’s the President-elect. I’m not a political person that much, but I have common sense. And I know when something is not right.”
Before I dive into these treacherous waters let’s get a few things straight. I let Colin Kaepernick have it a few months ago when he decided to sit out and take a knee during the National Anthem at the start of the season and I maintain my position of it being offensive. Kaepernick’s cause was the mistreatment of African-Americans by police officers across the nation among other racially-charged issues.
Evans said that isn’t his motive.
“Yeah, I know Kaepernick did it for that. I’m doing it for a different reason, for how a reality star can be the president,” Evans said following Tampa Bay’s 36-10 win over Chicago. “That’s not a good look for America.”
Just because Evans plays for the Bucs doesn’t mean he gets a pass from me. It’s still an offensive move that offends some of the men and women in uniform and those that have fought for country and their supporters. And did he pick the wrong day to do it or what?
The Bucs rolled out all the stops for the NFL’s Salute To Service celebration today following Veterans Day on Friday. MacDill Air Force Base and U.S. Central Command were well represented today at Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers Cheerleaders donned soldier-like uniforms. The Tampa Bay players had camouflage towels, hats and gloves to celebrate the military on Sunday. There was even an oath of enlistment ceremony with dozens of young men and women joining the Armed Forces at halftime.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy with a camo towel – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Of all days to take a knee in a military town just to protest the election of Trump, today certainly wasn’t the day. And is it going to be worth the cost?
Every decision in life is subject to scrutiny and has consequences – some unintended.
Evans’ superb 2016 season has made him a fan favorite among Bucs fans. His four catches for 66 yards gives him 59 catches for 811 yards and eight touchdowns this year and he’s headed for his first Pro Bowl. He’ll need plenty of fan votes to get there, but how many Bucs fans will Evans alienate with his decision not to stand for the National Anthem?
Keep in mind that Bucs Co-Chairman Ed Glazer, who is Evans’ boss, donated $55,400 to Trump’s campaign, and that 4.6 million people voted for Trump in the state of Florida, which he won by 150,000 votes. An additional 4.6 million of Americans voted for Trump in his native state of Texas, which he won by 800,000.
Evans said his protest isn’t about politics, rather it’s about the fact that Trump was a reality TV star.
“Because of who he is – it’s not about the Republican party or the Democratic party or anything like that,” Evans said. “It’s just who he is. It’s well documented what he’s done. I’m not going to stand for something I don’t believe in. That’s the end of that.”
I don’t know how many Bucs fans voted for Trump and how many voted for Hillary Clinton, but I’d guess about half looking at how the state of Florida and the rest of the country cast their ballots.
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Evans’ popularity will undoubtedly take a hit over his decision to kneel during the National Anthem. I wonder how his local endorsement deals with places like Bill Currie Ford will be affected by it, too. I wonder how many fewer No. 13 jerseys will be sold as a result of his stance.
I wish Evans hadn’t done it, although he has every right to.
Just like Evans took offense at Trump winning the election, people were offended by his decision to sit before the National Anthem rather than stand.
We already know how Evan’s other boss, Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, feels about it, stating his displeasure back in August with NFL players like Kaepernick deciding not to stand for the National Anthem.
“Believe it or not, we have practiced how to line up for the National Anthem. We’ve worked on it,” Koetter said. “I don’t know if our organization has a right to tell a guy that he needs to [stand]. 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 paved the way for us. But at the same time, this is a free country and freedom of speech is something we all believe in and freedom of expression and that’s an individual’s choice. That’s a fine line. But I would personally be disappointed but I think that would be hard to enforce that rule.”
After Sunday’s win over the Bears Koetter wasn’t asked about Evans’ decision to sit out the National Anthem because not many in the media found out about it until after the game and after Koetter spoke. So instead of the feel-good vibes that comes with basking in a Victory Monday press conference, the first question Koetter will be asked on Monday will likely be about Evans’ divisive act.
What a buzz-kill.
Just days after a contentious presidential election that Trump won with a likely Electoral College score of 306-228 after all the votes are counted (with New Hampshire’s four electoral votes going to Clinton and Michigan’s 16 electoral votes going to Trump), Evans will be lauded as a hero by some, and cast as a villain by others.
At the end of the Sunday, though, Evans will have fewer fans than he began the day with, and that’s a shame because he’s a great guy and an outstanding football player. The Bucs need more fans right now, not less.
Some will be offended because his act will be viewed as an anti-military gesture, even though Evans swears it’s not.
“I don’t want to disrespect the veterans or anything,” Evans said. “The men and women that serve this country, I’m forever indebted to them. But the things that have been going on in America lately, I’m not going to stand for that.”
To some, that serves as a valid explanation for his decision. To others, Evans’ words simply ring hollow.
Some will be offended because he’s bringing politics in the realm of sports where people want to escape politics, especially after a long and nasty campaign between Trump and Clinton.
Some will be offended and think he’s a sore loser because he’s protesting the guy they voted for President.
I remember seeing a lot of “Love Trumps Hate” signs at the Clinton campaign, but I’ve seen an awful lot of hatred towards the President-elect by some of those very same people that were holding those signs now that Trump has won, which is sad and full of irony.
I also don’t remember anyone on the losing side taking to the streets to protest Barack Obama during his election and re-election despite being vehemently opposed to his policies, but I digress.
Protesting the election by sitting down for the National Anthem won’t change anything but Evans’ popularity, unfortunately. It certainly won’t change the outcome of the election and it won’t do anything to help unify the country.
President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama – Photo by: Getty Images
“We want to make sure they feel welcome as they prepare to make this transition,” President Barack Obama said after a 90-minute meeting with Trump at the White House on Thursday. “Most of all, I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed – because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”
My personal hope is that Evans eventually gives Trump a chance seeing as he is the President for the next four years.
I hope that Evans elects to stand for the National Anthem next week in Kansas City and that a one-week protest was sufficient. His decision to sit isn’t going to affect my coverage of him even though I personally disagree with his stance.
It’s not going to keep me from believing that Evans is a great young man with a bright, bright future ahead of him in Tampa Bay.
I’m going to respect his opinion, and I’m going to forgive Evans – and I’m going to ask that you do the same thing even if his action offends you. Respectfully disagree with him if you will, but don’t bash him.
In an era where insults and charges of being a racist, a bigot or a xenophobe are too loosely and carelessly tossed around, especially by the people waging the protests of the President-elect, calling Evans any names doesn’t serve a purpose.
I’m asking that you don’t do it. It doesn’t bring people together.
Instead, if you are offended by Evans’ actions today, forgive him and keep rooting for him as a Buccaneer.
Civility, mutual respect and agreeing to disagree are the only ways we’ll come together as the citizens of the United States of America.
I’ll stand up for you, Mike.
The Buccaneers released a statement late Sunday evening regarding Evans’ decision: The Buccaneers are deeply committed to the military and honoring the great men and women that have dedicated their lives and have made great sacrifices to insure all the tremendous freedoms we have in this great country. We encourage all members of our organization to respectfully honor our flag during the playing of the National Anthem. We also recognize every individual’s constitutional right to freedom of speech, which is crucial to the American principles we cherish.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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