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Mailbag: Tom Jones and the Mike Evans incident

Following the Bucs' debacle in New Orleans on Sunday, I wrote a full-length column about how the Bucs should not fire coach Dirk Koetter or general manager Jason Licht. But it was a 108-word item in a game "report card'' that drew the ire of readers. And, sadly, it revealed some racial overtones in their reactions.

In the item, I defended the actions of Bucs receiver Mike Evans after a sideline altercation. It all started when Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston poked Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore in the back of the helmet with his finger. Lattimore responded by pushing Winston. And then Evans blasted Lattimore from behind, nearly knocking him out of this shoes. The NFL announced Monday that Evans will be suspended for one game.

Here's what I wrote:
"Some might call it a cheap shot. Some might call it cowardly. The NFL might call it an act worthy of suspension. Know what I call Mike Evans blasting Saints defensive back Marshon Lattimore? The act of a good teammate. Was it dirty? Yeah, sure. And did the whole incident on the Bucs' sideline start because Jameis Winston put a finger on Lattimore's head? Absolutely. But when Lattimore responded by pushing Winston, someone needed to do something, and Evans did the right thing. I guarantee the Winston-Evans bond is tighter now than ever. Did Evans do Lattimore wrong? Who cares? Evans did right by his quarterback.

And I then gave Evans an "A.'' That did not go over well with many.

Listed below is a sampling of the e-mails I received, and take notice just how many use the word "thug,'' which I believe is a code word used specifically when talking about African-Americans. Also notice references to gangs. All because of a hit in a football game.

I didn't mind those disagreeing with my take on the matter. In fact, I get it completely. Even I admit it's hard to defend what Evans did. But I simply saw it as one teammate defending another, and to be more specific, a wide receiver protecting his quarterback and the leader of his team.

But what I found disturbing was the tone many readers used to disagree, especially hinting at the race aspect of the incident.

Here are some of the e-mails:

WOW. One less sportswriter's articles I have to worry about reading — that would be yours. How writers in general continue to defend the actions of these players today is beyond me. Evans, who I have no love for, was even man enough to admit he acted unprofessionally. Winston, who I still cannot believe was chosen by the Bucs over Marcus Mariota (if for no other reason than just character alone coming out of college), proved that point yet again. Continue to defend their actions — the thug mentality of the NFL. Bravo, Mr. Sportswriter. WOW. I just went back and read it again to make sure I got it correct the first time. Sadly, I did. Hopefully no young impressionable kids read your articles. Thankfully, I suspect few do. I think I will convert fully to watching professional golf, a sport where I don't have to see a player arrested every week; a sport where if a player doesn't perform, he doesn't get paid and they get paid according to their production. Here's a novel idea: a sport where players actually will call penalties on themselves occasionally because it is the right thing to do. I could go on and on but I suspect it would fall upon deaf ears and I've wasted far too much of my time already.

After what we all witnessed on the sideline by Thug Winston and Thug Evans, you really think these guys are the leaders of communities? To instigate and then blindside a fellow player?  Funny, I never saw Warren Moon come out to the field to taunt an opponent. Come to think of it, I never saw Doug Williams, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Russell Wilson or the Manning Bros come out on the field to taunt an opponent. Marcus Mariotta either. When we dismiss the truth and look the other way to be politically correct, where do we turn when the lie of political correctness is exposed? Thug culture and lack of personal discipline has taken over the Bucs.

Ridiculous comments by Tom Jones. Winston's actions were low-class garbage and Evans' merits a suspension. One bum supporting another doesn't deserve an "A" grade. Tom Jones is proud of Mike Evans for his dirty hit on an opponent. Evans was wrong and he admits his mistake. But yet Jones lauds Evans for dirty play. Maybe Jones just needed some comments to justify his schoolboy comment. Wow. "Evans did the right thing"?? You are a bigger idiot than the officials who didn't eject Evans. A dirty and dangerous cheap shot after Winston provokes Lattimore from behind. So one coward defended another coward and then the dim wit scribe defends them showing his complete lack of values!! Great way to legitimatize unacceptable behavior you nit wit. Jones, your "reasoning" in giving Evans' cheap shot a "Grade A" is hilariously STUPID. Did you even read what your typed??? Winston IS the punk thug most of us knew he was when the Bucs wasted a number one draft pick on him. Winston is awful. Eat that "W" Jameis. And you write professionally? Winstons's move was punk and Evan's move was punk squared. You're obviously following the Colin Cowherd school of journalistic thought. If you want to garner attention, be ridiculously wrong! It works every time. Does anybody at the "Tampa Bay Times" have editorial control over you? They might want to start. Enjoy unemployment you dumb (expletive).

You have an interesting set of values.  Evidently you believe the ends justify the means. What gang are you a member of?

I disagree that Evans had Winston's back when he blindsided the player provoked by our QB. Evans admits as much. Researchers have found that the biggest reason for gangster crime is not drugs, turf wars, gangs, etc. It's perceived slights or insults. That's counterintuitive, I know.  Dr. Thomas Sowell, in his book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, chronicles this thuggish behavior by tracing it back to the Scots Irish who settled the South and taught black folks this unhealthy reaction to perceived slights. (Strom Thurmond's Dad shot a liquored up salesmen outside his country store because the guy was mouthy. Instead of ending up guilty of murder the jury was sure any man in his position would do the same.) As a veteran, I know the importance of having my buddies' backs. However, hitting Lattimore from behind was a thug move. To give it any value will only due a disservice to a team that lacks focus, and, in this case, honor. You want to have your QB's back? Be a better man. Thanks.

Winston, he will now be referred to as Stupid Winston because that is what he is.  Immature and stupid.   Immature with the finger episode, stupid because he can't learn how to be a good QB rather than a gunslinger who can't hang on to the ball. Evans, a stupid thug from da hood.  He should be suspended for six games and then they can negotiate down to two.  That hit was totally uncalled for and could have resulted in a serious injury, ruining that player's career. I am really disappointed in your take on that incident, you basically condoned, aided and abetted in the next incident.  Here is a thought, next time a player injures another with a dirty, illegal hit, the offending player should be suspended as long as the injured player is out, be that six weeks or six months.

Wow! I know sports writers are like restaurant critics; they don't know (expletive) about what they're writing about but have a forum to pop off to make people think they do. But man! Even the guy you write about disagrees with you. Your words here weren't worth publishing, should have been caught by your editor and like those you write about, you show what an amateur you are. First off,  Jameis Winston, an immature thug QB with questionable talent is a punk who should be fined and suspended, not defended. He came off the bench to poke and taunt an opponent who never even set eyes on him. Second, you come to the defense of another thug who slams the offended defender in the back. Wow, big guy! That makes you seem like the little cowardly kid on the bike who hangs and rallies with the bullies so he doesn't his own (expletive) kicked by them. Even your own readers in TB seem to think your "editorial" was moronic. No, it was insignificant drivel by a small town wannabe-significant sportswriter who thinks taking a shocking position in a column will make him stand out. You accomplished your goal, if it was to stand out as little league parent who thinks his kid can do no wrong. Do your readers a favor. Stop writing for a while and take a course in journalistic professionalism.

Cheap thought by a thug. No surprise you support that cheap shot by Evans. It's why they won't be in the playoffs and proves you are a sellout. See Tom, to bash a player or to tell the truth means he won't talk to you!!  That is sad. Tough to call a player out, the great ones do!

Not all responses used the word thug or referred to gangs and, to be fair, many simply had a problem with what Evans and Winston did. And, again, I get that. I completely understand where folks are coming from. In fairness, here are some of those responses as well.

I enjoy your newspaper articles, comments, evaluations, criticisms very much.  BUT, you miss it in a big way calling Evans' hit from the back on Saints CB Lattimore "the act of a good teammate," and grading it an A. Winston was probably out of line pushing on Lattimore's helmet; Lattimore shoved mildly back in the chest; and another Buc from the sideline intervened between those two so things did not escalate unnecessarily. The minor confrontation was over when Evans launched into a completely defense opponent. Right above your report card in today's paper, Evans himself characterizes his action as "malicious, childish, unprofessional," yet you give it an A. I'm just an Army guy and not a professional football player, but acting out of frustration rather than under control is generally an indication of lack of discipline, maybe in addition to delay of game and offsides penalties. Maybe Evans gets more leeway to defend his teammates on the field, face-to-face, but a cheap shot after it's over should not merit praise.

To call Evans cheap shot anything but criminal makes you lose any credibility you had. You've lost your mind. Bad influence.

You're half right. Intervening was the right thing to do, hitting him in the back like that was not.

Put the blame on where it should go: WINSTON. He should stay on the bench! Evans should have been thrown out. And Winston's pre-game speech?

In your article "I got your back", you not only defend Mike Evans, you praise him for coming to the aid of "his quarterback.'' You admit Winston started the whole thing by poking Lattimore in the back of his helmet. So should have one of Lattimore's teammates come to his defense, his cornerback? Lattimore's "shove" was no more violent than Winston's "poke.''  Winston had no business doing what he did. That is not the behavior of a leader. He should be "keeping his cool'' and supporting his team in a positive manner during a difficult time. Can you picture Marcus doing something similar?  I think not. Please, if you are going to assign blame, put it squarely where it belongs, with Jameis Winston.

Your article giving Mike Evans an "A" for his childish, ignorant, illegal, and dangerous hit on Marshon Lattimore, is despicable and even more childish and ignorant. … You're a moron.

You can't be serious! If so, you have some serious personal and professional growth ahead of you. Grow up.

So there you have it, a sampling of the dozens of e-mails I received Monday regarding my comments. Again, I realize I'm in the minority in terms of understanding why Evans did what he did. And, yes, we're all thankful Lattimore wasn't injured. If he was, maybe this would all be a different conversation.

But I was saddened — although I can't say I was really that surprised — by the racial overtones of the responses.