Receiver Mike Evans said he always loved standing for the national anthem. But when he joins his Bucs teammates in line for the Star Spangled Banner Sunday at Kansas City as he has vowed to do, he said it will be with mixed emotions.
"When I was a kid, man, I used to love standing for the national anthem and I still love standing for the National Anthem,'' Evans said Wednesday. "I think of our troops, but most importantly, I think of the American population and everybody as a whole. And I think of our leader. I think of who our leader is, so it's going to be some foggy area there but I will stand.''
Evans, 23, came under fire from fans who threatened to boycott Bucs games, politicians and members of the military when he decided to sit for the anthem prior to Sunday's 36-10 win over the Chicago Bears in protest of the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Monday he was "disappointed," in Evans' decision but respected his First Amendment rights.
Making matters worse, it was the Bucs' Salute to Service Day with hundreds of military personnel and their families at Raymond James Stadium.
"I know it hits home for a lot of people and this city of Tampa is big for the military and I know I hurt a lot of people by doing what I did so I want to apologize to them,'' Evans said. "To the people that were really affected by what I did and to the people that are disappointed in my decision to stand with teammates from now on, don't worry, I'm going to continue to use my voice and my platform for minority rights.''
Evans confirmed Wednesday he did not vote in the presidential election he was protesting, but said that's only because he discovered he was registered in Texas and the deadline had passed for an absentee ballot.
"I know people saw I didn't vote and I don't do politics and things like that, but the funny thing is I tried to vote and I realized I'm a voter in Texas, I'm registered in Texas, and it was too late when I tried to take the action to do it. But that's my fault. It won't happen again.''
Evans said he did not make any coached or teammates aware of his protest last Sunday.
"On my own. I didn't want to bring that type of negative energy to my teammates,'' Evans said. "It felt awkward when I sat, seeing my teammates all stand up. You know, I'm a team guy, so I'm going to use my voice and my platform to help minorities in a different way.''
However, Evans said he was prepared for the backlash he received following the game. In the post-game locker room, he said, "I said this a long time ago. When (Trump) ran, I thought it was a joke. And the joke continues.''
"It was what I expected,'' Evans said of the reaction. "Some people were saluting me. Some people showed a lot of heat and a lot of hate and it's what I expected. That's the problem that I had and that's why I did what I did. I can't change it. But I apologize to the military. I know that hit home to a lot of people.
"I mean, I just want people to understand you can't hate somebody because they have different beliefs or different views than you and that's the problem. That's why I did what I did. I want people to understand you just can't wish hard on anybody just because they have different beliefs than you. Not everybody grows up the same. Everybody is exposed to different things growing up. That's why I did what I did.''
Evans grew up as the son of a biracial family in Galveston, Texas, which is nearly one-third Hispanic.
"I'm half black and half white,'' Evans said. "I'm multi-cultured and people shouldn't feel that way toward other people because we're all human beings.
"The way people grow up, it shapes the way they think and the way they do certain things. I grew up with a mixed population, white, Hispanic and black. I feel all people are equal.''
Which minorities will Evans use his platform to be the voice for?
"On the field, I'm going to continue to do what I do and play hard. I'm playing hard because I've got this right, I've got this freedom from the vets and things like that,'' Evans said. "I'm going to reach out to organizations. The organizations I feel that are doing the best job to help minorities. Minorities, women, LBGT, you know, African Americans, Latinos — the people that are in fear of the president.''