Fans present Mike Evans with U.S. flag flown at embassy in Iraq
When receiver Mike Evans chose to sit during the national anthem at a Bucs home game in November to protest the election of Donald Trump, he said he intended no disrespect toward veterans or those still serving in the U.S. military.
On Friday, two Bucs fans from Riverview went to great lengths to present him with a gesture of how much the flag means to them.
Patrick Watkins and Shawn Williams, Bucs fans who both served in the military and now work for the Defense Intelligence Agency, arranged to have a U.S. flag flown over the American embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, in honor of Evans, and that flag was dropped off at One Buc Place on Friday and passed along to the Pro Bowl receiver.
"It is with great pleasure, pride and respect that this flag was flown for Mike Evans," reads the certificate from the U.S. Marine Corps given with the flag.
Watkins, a Bucs' season-ticket holder who works at MacDill Air Force Base, was on the field for the team's "Salute to Service" game in 2015 and had a Bucs jersey signed by Evans that day. He wrote him a letter to go with the flag, sharing his love of the flag with the hope he would choose a different platform if he were to protest something important to him again.
"I understand your choice to exercise the (First) Amendment Right and respect your decision to do it," he wrote. "Instead of being upset over this single event, I wanted to share my thoughts from a service member's point of view ... Today I want to present a flag to you, one that symbolizes the sacrifices that were made defending it. ... I hope this provides a different perspective."
The flag was flown over the embassy on Nov. 27, the very day Evans caught two touchdown passes in the Bucs' 14-5 home victory against the Seahawks. Williams was in Baghdad when the flag was flown and returned home to Florida with the flag last week.
Evans ended his protest after two days and has stood with his teammates for all national anthems since. The Bucs, now 8-7 with a chance to finish with a winning record for the first time in six years, play their final game of the 2016 regular season on Sunday afternoon at home against the Carolina Panthers.