Friday, August 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What motivated Bucs' Mike Evans to sit during anthem to protest Trump?

TAMPA — Mike Evans respectfully removed his Bucs cap then made his stand by sitting during the national anthem. Nobody seemed to know beforehand he planned to do this. Not his teammates, and certainly not his coach Dirk Koetter, who turned to quarterback Jameis Winston after the rendition by the 82nd Airborne Division's All-American chorus and, with two T-38 jets roaring overhead, said, "If that doesn't get you fired up, I don't know what will."

Evans, 23, explained later he was protesting the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

"I'm not going to stand for something I don't believe in," Evans said after Sunday's 36-10 win over the Bears. "I'm not big on politics. I told myself, 'If this happens, then America's not right, right now.' I said this a long time ago. When (Trump) ran, I thought it was a joke. And the joke continues. I'm not a political person that much, but I've got common sense. I know when something's not right."

UPDATE: Bucs' Mike Evans says he will end national anthem protest

The gesture came during a Salute to Service game, but Evans said he didn't want to disrespect veterans or those still serving. "The men and women that have served this country, I'm forever indebted to them," he said. "But the things that have been going on in America lately, I'm not going to stand for that."

So why did he do it? What is it about Evans, who said on Instagram during election day Tuesday that he didn't vote, that he would allow himself to be delivered into a whirlwind of mostly negative reaction?

To understand the divide, much like the one in our nation after the election, it helps to know something about Evans, geographically, emotionally, biologically.

Evans, who was unavailable for comment Monday during a players' day off, grew up in Galveston, a coastal town in southeast Texas. Its population is 31 percent Hispanic. At the start of his campaign, Trump called Mexican immigrants rapists and vowed to ban the people of an entire religion from entering the United States.

Evans' biracial parents weren't wealthy, and growing up in Texas, it's not inconceivable that he experienced racism.

In the early 1970s, before Trump became a champion of affordable housing, he and his father were sued by the U.S. Justice Department for alleged racial discrimination against blacks seeking apartment rentals in 40 properties the Trumps owned in New York. The suit was settled with no admission of guilt.

When Evans was 9 and asleep upstairs with his sister at their home, his father Mickey was stabbed repeatedly and shot to death by his white uncle, Sam Kilgore, who had been serving a 10-year sentence for burglary when he learned that his sister had become pregnant with Mike at age 14.

Kilgore, who had come to live with Mike and his parents after his release from prison, had witnessed his sister become a victim of domestic abuse.

Trump bragged of groping and kissing women without their consent and has been accused of sexual assault by at least 12 women. He called them liars and said he would not have assaulted some of them because they are not very attractive.

The most important people in Evans' life are all women — his mother, Heather, his wife, Ashli, and his daughter, Mackenzie, from a previous relationship. Her named is tattooed prominently to his left arm, his heart worn on a sleeve of ink.

It's much easier to judge Evans if you've made no attempt to understand who he is, what he has endured in his life.

All I can tell you is he's an emotional player, but fairly stoic during interviews, and hadn't shared much about his life until he was profiled on an E:60 feature about his life on ESPN in August.

He's a receiver, and unselfish. He doesn't mind being double-teamed since it creates better matchups for teammates. He's passionate about the game, but this season he learned to control himself better on the field and move on to the next play. He credits his maturity to getting married and having a family.

Some might think his action Sunday was intended to insult the military. But his mentor, Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson, is an Army brat who works closely with the servicemen and servicewomen at MacDill Air Force Base and has created a foundation to assist military families.

Why Evans, who is registered in Texas, decided not to vote in the election of a president he so viscerally opposed, we don't know. It's not like the decision by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who said the political system was a part of the oppression and he didn't like either candidate.

Koetter said of Evans, "Yeah, I'm disappointed for that, but again, I also respect Mike's freedom of speech and freedom of expression."

And that's probably the best reaction because Evans seems intent on continuing his protest.

On Monday, he re-tweeted Texas A&M quarterback Conner McQueen, who quoted Scripture from the Book of James. "Consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."

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