In November 2016, Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans sat on the bench during the national anthem in protest of Donald Trump’s election as president. Two days later, he apologized and said he would go back to standing.
Why was Evans’ protest so short-lived?
The quickest explanation is that those who took offense, including a Republican state senator, were loud and insistent in their calls for the Bucs to discipline, trade or release Evans, whose silent demonstration coincided with the NFL’s “Salute to Service” military appreciation and merchandise marketing campaign.
“It was never my intention (to offend military members) as I have tremendous respect for the men and women who serve our country,” Evans said in a statement. “I have very strong emotions regarding some of the many issues that exist in our society today. I chose to sit as an expression of my frustration towards this year’s election.”
Would the backlash have been as vociferous had Evans been playing in San Francisco, New York or Philadelphia?
Evans’ protest took place in front of the most Republican-leaning fan base in the country, according to a late 2017 poll of 2,290 NFL fans commissioned by FiveThirtyEight. Of the fans who picked the Bucs as one of their favorite teams, 34.3 percent identified themselves as Republicans and 24.8 percent identified themselves as Democrats, a 9.5 percentage point difference. The average margin across all markets was a 6.3 point lean toward Democrats.
The poll also showed a split along racial lines. About 90 percent of the Republican Bucs fans classified themselves as white; 65 percent of the Democrat Bucs fans classified themselves as white.
Tampa Bay’s Republican tilt isn’t a surprise considering that Trump won Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties in the 2016 general election (Hillary Clinton won Hillsborough), but the margin is. The margin here is greater than in Dallas (2.7 points) and Houston (5.0 points) combined.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @tometrics.