Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: Bucs' Mike Evans makes it right; now it's our turn

TAMPA — Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans stood at his locker Wednesday afternoon surrounded by a bank of cameras, microphones and tape recorders. For nearly seven minutes he was peppered with questions about his national anthem protest of the election of Donald Trump as president.

Hey, Mike, what have the last 72 hours been like? Why did you apologize? Any regrets? Are you really going to stand for the anthem from now on?

Mike, would you do it all again?

And after 72 hours and those nearly seven minutes, this much is clear: Evans, 23, is an impressive man.

You can disagree with his politics, as is your right. And you can disagree with his method of protesting, as is also your right. But how he has handled himself is what America is truly all about.

For the record, Evans is still upset about Trump, but he vowed to stand for the national anthem from now on.

"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. "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."

As soon as word spread Sunday that Evans sat during the national anthem before the home game against the Bears, he was on the receiving end of heavy criticism.

"It was what I expected," Evans said. "Some people were saluting me. Some people showed a lot of heat and a lot of hate. (Trump's election is) the problem that I had, and that's why I did what I did. I can't change it."

In some ways, the vitriol directed at Evans only proved his point.

"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," Evans said. "Not everybody grows up the same. Everybody is exposed to different things growing up. That's why I did what I did."

Makes sense, doesn't it?

But that didn't stop Evans from taking heat. That included criticism from local elected officials, whose first priority should be upholding the Constitution. Instead, they felt it was more important to talk about boycotting a franchise that does as much as anyone for the military. Instead they shamefully tried to use their power to intimidate, belittle and silence a peaceful protester.

"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 not stand with teammates — from now on, don't worry, I'm going to continue to use my voice and my platform for minority rights."

For Evans, that means all minorities.

"On the field, I'm going to continue to do what I do and play hard," Evans said. "I'm playing hard because I've got this right, I've got this freedom from the vets. … I'm going to reach out to organizations that are doing the best job to help minorities, women, LBGT, African-Americans, Latinos — the people that are in fear of the president."

That was Evans at his most powerful. Because whether you support Trump or not, shouldn't we be listening to the concerns of our citizens? Shouldn't the first reaction be, "Hey, I hear you. Maybe you have a point that I can't understand or relate to. What is it exactly? What are you scared of? What are your concerns? What can we do to make this all better?"

Nope, instead we heard about boycotts and burning jerseys and threats and people calling him an idiot and a thug, the latter of which is an insult with serious racial overtones. Even after he apologized, even after he explained why he didn't vote in the election and took responsibility for it, he hasn't been forgiven by some.

After Sunday's game, I wrote a column supporting Evans' right to peacefully protest and championing Bucs tackle Demar Dotson's right to back Trump. I pointed out how these two teammates get along despite political differences and how they should be an example of how all of us can move forward in unity.

Many felt that Evans was disrespecting the military. While I don't think he was, I do understand that line of thinking. But the overwhelming majority of comments and emails I received frighteningly confirmed that racism and divisiveness are alive and well.

I was told to move to another country. I was called "un-American." Another called Evans "un-American." Several emails included the n-word. One reader spent 1,000 words talking about black-on-black crime. Another told me how it's "white America's time now." All because I defended someone's rights under the First Amendment.

Just as when I supported Colin Kaepernick's right to protest by kneeling for the anthem, I was left shaken at the level of hatred and bigotry in the responses.

I'm a 51-year-old white man who was left completely disheartened and fearful. Imagine the feelings of a 23-year-old minority like Evans?

Yet, Evans has handled himself maturely and gracefully, and he has done it entirely by himself with no outside influence, including from the Bucs.

He got his message out. When he learned he offended some, he apologized and vowed not to offend them again. Yet he stood by his original political message.

He has done everything he can do to make this right.

So now what are you going to do? Help Evans build a bridge or put up a wall?

Comments
Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

ST. PETERSBURG — USF had expected to have four former players in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, but QB Quinton Flowers had to miss the showcase game after learning that his grandmother had died late last week."I most definitely ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a week to install a playbook, offenses can have it tough in college showcase games.And for 58 minutes on Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, the teams combined for just one offensive touchdown.But...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Sunday’s NFL conference championship game previews

AFC: Jaguars at Patriots, 3, CBSLine/OU: Patriots by 7½; 46The big drama leading into this game is whether, or how much, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be slowed by his injured right hand, which kept him out of practice Thursday (see 6C for more...
Updated: 11 hours ago

NFL playoffs schedule

AFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPJaguars at Patriots, 3 p.m. today TV: CBS Line/OU: Patriots by 7½; 46NFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPVikings at Eagles, 6:40 tonight TV: Fox Line/OU: Vikings by 3; 38½Super Bowl LIIJaguars or Patriots vs. Vikings or Eagles, 6:30 p...
Updated: 11 hours ago
NFL Playoffs: Reconsidering the franchise quarterback imperative

NFL Playoffs: Reconsidering the franchise quarterback imperative

TAMPA — So much for needing a franchise quarterback to reach the Super Bowl.Sure, the Patriots Tom Brady is back in his seventh straight conference championship game and his 12th overall. But check out the other schlubs under center SundayIt's ...
Published: 01/19/18
Happy 15th anniversary to the greatest play in Bucs history: Ronde Barber shuts down the Vet

Happy 15th anniversary to the greatest play in Bucs history: Ronde Barber shuts down the Vet

Fifteen years ago today, cornerback Ronde Barber made what's considered the greatest play in Bucs  history, returning an interception of Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb 92-yards for a game-clinching touchdown in a 27-10 win in the NFC Championship...
Published: 01/19/18
Jameis Winston shares MLK’s message: Don’t lose infinite hope

Jameis Winston shares MLK’s message: Don’t lose infinite hope

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, only weeks removed from a disappointing 2017 season, had a relevant but larger message for teenagers on Friday morning: Don't let small setbacks keep you from your dreams."If you have a phone, if you have a pen and pa...
Published: 01/19/18
Greatest moment in Tampa Bay sports history happened 15 years ago today

Greatest moment in Tampa Bay sports history happened 15 years ago today

Happy Friday, Tampa Bay.Fifteen years ago today, Ronde Barber intercepted Donovan McNabb to shut down Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium and send the Bucs to the Super Bowl. Times columnist Tom Jones and many others consider this the greatest moment in ...
Published: 01/19/18
Rick and Tom podcast: Super Bowl berths on the line

Rick and Tom podcast: Super Bowl berths on the line

In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones look back at last week’s playoff games to break down the upcoming conference championship games.Rick and Tom agree that New England should roll over Jacksonville but disagree on Minnesota-Philadelphi...
Published: 01/19/18
Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Bucs general manager Jason Licht told Rick Stroud that he cringed at some of the preseason expectations last season, and the outrage from some fans has been more than he expected.In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down what it a...
Published: 01/18/18