Advertisement
  1. Bucs

Bucs' Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson kneel during national anthem

Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Sep. 25, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — On the Bucs team charter flight Saturday, receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans sat next to each other and became outraged reading the comments that President Donald Trump made at a political rally in Alabama a night earlier.

Trump referred to NFL players who protested the national anthem as "sons of b------" and encouraged team owners to fire any player who would not stand for the Star-Spangled Banner.

Jackson made a decision during that flight to Minneapolis to not stand for the national anthem prior to Sunday's game, and Evans joined him.

"He said he was going to do it," Evans said. "And I said, 'I got your back.' "

The Bucs discussed the matter at a team meeting in the hotel Saturday night. Coach Dirk Koetter read statements by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and several NFL owners who had strong rebukes of Trump's words.

So when it came time for Sunday's game, Jackson and Evans knelt on one knee behind their teammates, many of whom locked arms. Both players had their right hand over their hearts in what Evans described as "for the troops."

"I just felt the things that have been going on and the things that have been said is blatant disrespect," Jackson said Sunday following the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings. "You know, my mom is a queen. We're not sons of any b's and personally we had messages throughout the league with a lot of colleagues. Other teams, other friends we have in the league, we wanted to be able to stand in unity. We wanted to be bigger than what's going on.

"He's supposed to be running our country, not tweeting, texting and speaking on NFL guys and what their rights are. It's crazy to me. He's a joke. He's a clown and I speak how I see it."

Jackson and Evans were not alone Sunday. All over the NFL, there were similar signs of solidarity.

TOM JONES: Rather than criticizing anthem protests, we should be asking about the reasons for them

The Pittsburgh Steelers became the first to decide to sit out of the national anthem as a team, remaining in the visitor's locker room at Soldier Field before their game against the Chicago Bears. However, Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, stood in the tunnel during the anthem with his hand over his heart.

In Nashville, no players on either the Seattle Seahawks or Tennesee Titans were on the sidelines for the anthem. In Kansas City, as many as 11 Chiefs sat during the anthem. In Foxboro, Tom Brady stood with his hand over his heart and locked his left arm with a teammate while about 20 Patriots kneeled.

A day after Trump's comments, the NFL and the NFL Players Association issued responses to Trump's statements.

Goodell responded by saying the president's "divisive comments" reveal an "unfortunate lack of respect" for the league and the contributions players make to their communities. DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFLPA, echoed the players' outrage.

"We will never back down," Smith titled his statement. "We no longer can afford to stick to sports."

Last year, Evans sat during the national anthem prior to the Bucs' Nov. 13 game against Chicago in Tampa to protest Trump's election. He apologized two days later for offending anyone in the military and stood for the anthem the remainder of the year.

"When the president has singled out athletes, or African-American athletes, myself and my other colleagues that took a knee just have different beliefs than him," Evans said Sunday. "It was very childish on his part. It seems like he's trying to divide us. I think this is an opportunity for me to do what I can. A lot of guys around the league did it and I understand why.

RELATED: Who took a knee? How each NFL team responded to Donald Trump's tweets about anthem protests

"People are going to misconstrue and turn it to make it depict a different picture than it really is. I love the military. Like I said last year when I sat, it's nothing against the military at all. The anthem is different for other people. People say it's unpatriotic. But it's unpatriotic for the president not to respect our rights."

Koetter said he felt the issue needed to be addressed as a team prior to Sunday's game.

"I showed the players the quote that the commissioner came out with," Koetter said. "I showed the players the quotes from a couple of the owners. ... We had a little discussion as a team, opened it up for player participation. I'm not aware of what's happening during our game until after the fact, and our ownership has put out a statement, and obviously I stand behind that."

Executive vice president Joel Glazer released a statement shortly after the game began.

"As we have stated previously, the Buccaneers recognize every individual's constitutional right to freedom of speech," the statement said, "which is crucial to the American way of life we cherish. We are equally committed to the principles of inclusivity and respect for differing points of view that should be afforded to all Americans."

RELATED: Trump: objection to NFL protests 'has nothing to do with race'

Some of Trump's most loyal supporters in the NFL had strong rebukes of his comments, including the Jaguars' Shahid Khan and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who each contributed $1 million to his inauguration.

Khan locked arms with his players, as did head coach Doug Marrone, prior to the Jaguars game against Baltimore at Wembley Stadium in London.

The Patriots, Falcons, Broncos, Ravens, Dolphins, Eagles, Bills, Colts, Seahawks, Browns and Lions all released statements supporting their players' right to peacefully protest and calling for unity.

DeSean Jackson's mother, Gayle, went to Twitter in support of her son Sunday morning.

"Sovereign Immunity at its best when it gives U a public platform to attack NFL players' Mothers," she tweeted. "I support my son kneeling before God today."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Jameis Winston's future with the Bucs is likely riding on his performance in Tampa Bay's final 10 games. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Bucs coach says he won’t hold back when giving a recommendation at the end of the season.
  2. Not counting his role as the 2012 Indianapolis Colts' interim head coach, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has a .652 winning percentage (30-16) after an open week and .538 (21-18) before. KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH  |  AP
    Arians’ teams have typically played well coming out of an off week. Tampa Bay will need just that to save its season.
  3. O.J. Howard is one of the few marketable assets the Bucs have at the NFL trade deadline. He's talented, he's being underutilized and Tampa Bay is already paying Cameron Brate $7 million a year at tight end. MONICA HERNDON | Times photo MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    The odds of making the playoffs are already slim, so Tampa Bay needs to consider upgrading their 2020 draft if the right trade opportunity exists.
  4. Bucs linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul is back. Can he help Tampa Bay get back into NFC playoff contention? MARK LOMOGLIO  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Can JPP save the Bucs’ season? Plus: Can anything save Willie Taggart in Tallahasse? Why couldn’t the Yankees save themselves?
  5. Could Cam Newton be the Bucs starting quarterback next season? One betting service has set the odds at 25:1.
    But they’ve labeled other contenders as potential starters for Tampa Bay
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard, top, is tackled by Los Angeles Rams strong safety John Johnson during the first of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ  |  AP
    Tampa Bay reportedly rebuffed New England’s interest in third-year tight end O.J. Howard.
  7. Bucs receiver Bredshad Perriman will look to return to action against Tennessee on Sunday. MARK LOMOGLIO  |  AP
    But will the Bucs have the right tackle and No. 3 receiver in the lineup on Sunday against Tennessee?
  8. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, seen running runs onto the field before the team's game against the Panthers in London, may be running out of time with Tampa Bay. TIM IRELAND  |  AP
    The former 1-2 draft picks are draft-bust brothers.
  9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) watches warm ups before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium on August 23, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Once sidelined by a fireworks accident, the Pro Bowl pass rusher now looks to bounce back from a May car accident
  10. The XFL released its 40-game 2020 regular-season schedule Tuesday. XFL
    The team will play the first of its five regular-season home games Feb. 22. Single-game tickets go on sale Thursday.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement