Opinion: Mike Evans’ Protest A Mistake, But Lay Off

The joy of a dominant Buccaneers win was quickly erased for many fans when word came down that Mike Evans has joined in the anthem protests.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are strictly my own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Pewter Plank staff. 

All I could do was shake my head. I was writing my weekly “Pick Six” column when I came across Pro Football Talk’s tweet; Mike Evans sat down during the National Anthem. A guy who was ripped up and down last season for his apparent regression and was now having arguably the best year of any wide receiver in the NFL. Now, he was about to take on far more criticism from not only the fan base who had been so excited for him this season, but on a national level as well.

Damn, Mike… why?

He told reporters why. That “something wasn’t right” and he wouldn’t stand for it. That a reality television star can’t be President. That the things Donald Trump had said or done in the past made it wrong for him to be our President. That he was waiting for Ashton Kutcher to come out and say we were “Punk’d”. Yet, in the same breath he admits that he’s not a political guy. He didn’t vote. In a state that was as close as Florida was, if the things Trump stood for was so bothersome, why not voice an opinion then? Why now?

Why on Salute to Service weekend?

I’m not here to talk about political agendas, candidates, or my political beliefs. I don’t find it necessary. I’m questioning why, of all the times to sit down, Mike Evans chose a day where the NFL is honoring the military. It’s the same response I had when players were kneeling or sitting on 9/11. It just felt wrong.

In terms of protesting the President elect, this is pretty tame compared to what has transpired with the rioting, the destruction, and the people blocking freeways. It’s sitting down for a two minute song, albeit a song that is supposed to honor the fallen and all this country has done and all it offers to people. The land of opportunity.

My Grandad would have turned 99 years old today. He served in the Air Force during World War II, spending a year in the hospital recovering from injuries, losing the use of one ear and having almost no hearing in the other. My aunt and uncle met one another serving in the Air Force. My cousins, their sons, served in the Marines and Army. My cousin did two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He fought a very difficult fight against PTSD and is now becoming a minister to help others who are going through the same.

I say that to say this; I have plenty of military members in my family and find that protesting the anthem is a slap in the face of what they did. That they risked their lives to protect ours. That they have so much love for this country they were willing to die in order for us to live on happy and free.

However, it was their commitment and unselfish sacrifices that allows Evans to do what he did.

Evans apologized to those who served and are serving, saying he meant no disrespect to them

Nov 3, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) runs with the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

and he owes them a debt of gratitude. The problem is, if you realize that, then why not wait a week? Trump is the basis of your protest and he isn’t going anywhere for the next four years, so why start sitting out this weekend? Why disrespect the men and women in uniform who were there to be honored? Why disrespect the veterans that were in the stands?

Maybe there is no right way to go about it in some people’s eyes. No matter when you protest the anthem, it’s not okay. I’m not going to burn an Evans jersey. I’m not going to cancel the order for a Mike Evans jersey for my son for Christmas. It’s the number one thing on his list and he doesn’t care who sits, stands, kneels. He’s seven and all he knows is Evans is one of his favorite players to watch because he’s so good. Am I going to punish a seven year old on Christmas morning because I don’t agree with a player who is sitting out the anthem? Am I going to start telling my seven year old about the insane world of politics and cause an innocent child to already begin having a cynical view on things? Expose him to the awful things on the news day in and day out? Absolutely not.

Evans is a great football player and a great kid. He’s made a decision – knowing there was going to be backlash and scrutiny because of it – and whether you agree with him or not, it’s his right. Evans has already gotten plenty of hate on Twitter the last 24 hours, but he’s garnered plenty of support, too. Evans won’t likely face the level of scrutiny Colin Kaepernick has because the Trump wound is still so fresh to so many. They can relate to him and his opinion. They’re disappointed and upset about the election but don’t have the platform Evans does to express that, so they show their support.

I hate that this in now a topic that I have to write about. That every Sunday there are going to be people – Buccaneers fans – blowing up Twitter and Facebook with hate for one of our players. That we made it all the way to week ten without this going on on our sideline and now it rears its ugly head. I hate that so many people now protest or riot or throw tantrums any time they don’t get their way rather than use that time to become more informed, to have a conversation with someone with a different view than their own and try to see things from different perspectives through open dialogue, or to become more active for the change they seek. Most of all, I hate that because so many disagree with Evans, he will face the ugliest side of so many Bucs fans upset with him.

I don’t agree with Mike Evans sitting out the anthem. I don’t agree with his decision to do it on a weekend that was meant to salute and honor our military and veterans. I don’t agree that he is taking a stand while at the same time saying he doesn’t really follow any of what has gone on. That’s not to say that he wouldn’t take the same stand, but it’s difficult to agree with a person who is protesting something and they don’t truly understand why.

All that said, I absolutely agree that he has every right to do it.

Just because we don’t like or agree with something does not make it wrong. He is exercising his freedoms that my family and friends – as well as many of yours – fought to ensure he has. I am not going to concern myself with the political views of an athlete any more than I will concern myself with the political views of an actor or singer. They don’t impact my view on things because of their celebrity status.

Mike Evans exercised his right. You can exercise yours and be angry or upset with him. You can protest wearing his jersey, going to games, watching games at home, or trade him off your fantasy team. Just remember something – he’s a person. He’s a husband. A father. He’s dealt with far more than many of us ever will. If you are upset or angry with him, that’s your right. Keep in mind that he’s doing what he believes in in a peaceful manner. I would encourage you to do the same.

Don’t tweet him telling him to die. Don’t tweet him telling him to leave the country. Don’t scream at him at the game and tell him he’s an awful person or wish negative things on him. You don’t need to make yourself look like a vile person because someone did something you didn’t like. It doesn’t work that way.

Maybe if more people were respectful to others more often, we wouldn’t have so many protests…

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