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Criticism of Mike Evans' protest is the real shame

TAMPA

On a day when the Bucs honored America's veterans, Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans started his own fight.

Evans sat on the bench, his ball cap removed, for the national anthem Sunday as a protest against Donald Trump being elected president. Evans called Trump's election a "joke." He said, "America's not right, right now."

Your reaction might depend on how you voted. If you voted for Trump, you probably see Evans as a spoiled athlete who is out of touch with a struggling working-class America, an America unhappy with its lot in life, an America that can't stand Washington's status quo and crooked political machine.

If you voted for Hillary Clinton, you likely feel exactly the same as Evans, still unable to comprehend that Americans actually would elect Trump as president after the things he said during a divisive campaign, that Americans would elect someone some consider sexist and a racist and totally unfit to run the nation.

Half the people out there — many of them good people with good hearts — agree with Evans with every fiber of their being. The other half — many of them good people with good hearts — do not agree, with just as much resolve. And that defines what these past 18 months have been about. Good and decent people seeing things differently.

This is a divided country and that has bled over to sports. Evans isn't first and won't be the last athlete to speak out.

MIKE EVANS SITS FOR ANTHEM: The Bucs receiver protests Donald Trump's election as president.

Evans should be respected for exercising his First Amendment rights. No one should have an issue with that, even if they disagree with his specific stance.

At the same time, no one should have a problem with Evans' teammate, offensive tackle Demar Dotson, for supporting Trump's presidency. Last week, Dotson was lambasted on social media for backing Trump.

Evans and Dotson are equally American and equally good guys. There is nothing evil about either.

Maybe that's the most important lesson here, that good people who pretty much care about the same things can see things differently and, yet, that doesn't make either any less decent.

This is the America we live in, a country where it's quite likely that the person who lives next door to you, who sits next to you at work or church, who stands behind you in the check-out line or, in some cases, stands next to you in a huddle, voted for someone different.

Ultimately, these are two teammates, working toward a common goal, who bleed and sweat and fight alongside one another, and who just happen to view our country in different ways. Their similarities are so much greater than their differences, just as you have so much in common with your neighbor.

But it's critical that we let everyone express themselves as long as it's done in a peaceful way. That means tolerating Evans not standing during the anthem. That means allowing Dotson to support Trump without calling him names on Twitter.

Evans will be criticized for this, just as Dotson was criticized. That's the real shame.

How can we brag about how great this country is if our immediate reaction is to silence those who stand up for something they believe in just because it opposes our stance?

Maybe as soon as we realize that we're all essentially good people who want the same things out of life we'll listen more than we shout, we'll smile more than we'll shake our fist, we'll reach out rather than push away. Then we have a chance to move forward.

Then you can stand and cheer both Mike Evans and Demar Dotson.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a very long reception for a first down during the second half of a game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a very long reception for a first down during the second half of a game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Criticism of Mike Evans' protest is the real shame 11/13/16 [Last modified: Monday, November 14, 2016 6:13am]
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