Dirk Koetter takes questions about Mike Evans' protest
At his day-after press conference Monday afternoon, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter addressed for the first time the topic of Mike Evans' sitting during the national anthem before Sunday's game in protest of Donald Trump's election.
Here's what Koetter had to say and how he answered several questions from reporters:
Koetter: "I'm exactly the same today, exactly the same as what I said in August, when the Colin Kaepernick stuff started. Exactly the same and I stand by that and I certainly stand by the statement released by the organization. I think that sums it up pretty well."
Q: Were you aware of Evans' decision to protest? Did he talk with you before the game?
Koetter: "No. I was texting with Mike last night. I'll talk to Mike. The players are off today. I will speak to Mike on Wednesday, but of course that conversation will be between me and him."
Q: How will you handle the potential distractions for the rest of your team?
Koetter: "I hope it doesn't affect our team. That's something I'll take whatever measures I think are necessary to try to minimize what effect it has on our team. I'm really not sure. This is unchartered water for me. I'm not sure about any of that."
Q: You've talked about wanting more Bucs fans and less opposing fans at games. Given the negative reaction from fans, are you worried this will affect that?
Koetter: "I'm not going to speak for Mike in any form at all. I'm not going to get into any advice I'd have for Mike. As far as me talking to the fans, I think the organization put out a great statement. We really want the fans to come out. I'm dying to get the fans out there and fill Ray-Jay up. We've got to play better football, and the better football we play, the more they'll come. I think we took a good step in that direction yesterday. That's my statement on that."
Q: What's your reaction to fans who say they may boycott games because of this?
Koetter: "I don't have control over that. ... This is all news to me. I've been working, getting ready for Kansas City all day. I don't really have a reaction. I'd be disappointed, because I want to fill that place up. That's Dirk Koetter talking, that's my personal opinion."
Q: Do you think this issue could hurt the drive to get more fans at games?
Koetter: "I'm not sure. Heck, I'm not sure if it will or it won't. I don't know."
Q: Have you heard any other players joining Evans in his protest?
Koetter: "I have not. I've not talked to any other players. 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 and players are off today. I've talked to two players today and it wasn't about this."
Q: "It seems the point is it's not about sitting or his beliefs but the timing of it, happening on Military Appreciation day."
Koetter: "What's the question?"
Q: "Do you feel that maybe the timing could have been better?
Koetter: "Again, I had nothing to do with the timing. I'm not the right person to ask about that. Maybe you'll get a chance to talk to Mike on Wednesday. I'm not the right 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, saw other players doing the same thing. I thought the display by the military, the flyover, the choir before the game, I thought that was awesome. Right when the national anthem went, Jameis (Winston) stands by me and that military choir sang and when that was over, that flyover, I turned and looked at Jameis and said 'If that doesn't get you fired up, I don't know what will.'"
Q: Can you reiterate your statement from August when you talked about Kaepernick's protest?
Koetter: "I can read it to you. They've got it for me here in very small print. 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 a 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 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.' If you remember, the question at that point was that Coach Jeff Fisher had said they were going to have some kind of a team rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem. I don't think that ever materialized."
Q: With that, are you disappointed that Evans chose to sit during the national anthem?
Koetter: "Yeah, I'm disappointed for that. I also respect Mike's freedom of speech and freedom of expression."
Q: Did you get a sense in the locker room that guys were split on the election in their opinion? At many companies, they ask employees not to discuss it publicly.
Koetter: "I wouldn't want to work for one of those companies. Would you? How was it at your company?"
Q: "We didn't get banned."
Koetter: "I'm sure there's discussion about a lot of topics in our locker room, some of which I know about, some of which I don't. I'm not sure."
Q: What would you say to the fans?
Koetter: "I think we already had that. Didn't we already have that? Didn't I already say? Let's fill Ray-Jay up. We've got to play better football. We need all the help we can get. We 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."