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Vahe Gregorian: Bucs receiver who sat during anthem over Trump speaks for many in sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) waves to fans before a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) waves to fans before a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016.
Published Nov. 16, 2016

Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans on Sunday became the latest NFL athlete to protest during the national anthem — in his case over the matter of president-elect Donald Trump on the verge of becoming the most powerful man on Earth.

In explaining himself afterward, before he went on to apologize Tuesday in advance of the Buccaneers game Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, Evans made some simple but clarifying points that speak to the core of the furor over Trump.

"That's not a good look for America, I don't think, for who he is," Evans said. "It's not about the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or anything like that.

"It's who he is."

People had any number of reasons for voting for Trump, and of course that's their prerogative.

And it's exasperating and ridiculous that Evans, like San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, apparently didn't vote.

But that doesn't erase the truth in what Evans said, because it's inescapable that Trump's triumph came despite his dehumanizing rants against women and minorities.

No matter your reasoning or political bent, it's a fact that Trump routinely behaves with brazen indecency and ran a campaign rooted in hate-mongering and anti-American threats to lock up his opponent.

That means he could soon put the "bully" in the bully pulpit and will have the capacity to morph from figuratively going ballistic — as he does with his itchy Twitter finger — to being able to literally do so.

This is some of why many people are terrified of what's to come, and why other sports figures, particularly among NBA coaches, have spoken out.

Because it's a time to stand and be counted, not #sticktosports.

Much of the fear isn't about politics, per se.

It's about Trump.

"All (his) comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and I live in that country where half the (voters) ignored all that to elect someone," San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters last week. "That's the scariest part of the whole thing to me.

"It's got nothing to do with the environment and Obamacare and all that other stuff. We live in a country that ignored all those values that we would hold our kids accountable for.

"They'd be grounded for years if they acted and said the things that have been said in that campaign by Donald Trump."

As for those suggesting Trump merely did those outrageous things to get elected but will preside differently, Popovich added, "So it was a big fake? Which makes you feel even more disgusting and cynical that somebody would use that to get the base that fired up to get elected."

Evans' initial stated plan was to stay with his protest either until Trump was out of office or, referring to the former MTV prank show, "when Ashton Kutcher comes out and says we've been 'punk'd.'"

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But he apparently won't be sitting during the national anthem, after all, before the game with the Chiefs.

"I want to start by apologizing to all the U.S. military members, their families, and the fans who I offended by my actions on Sunday," Evans said in a statement released Tuesday morning. "It was never my intention, as I have tremendous respect for the men and women who serve our country.

"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. It was very personal for me, as it was for so many Americans.

"With that being said, I will not sit again during the National Anthem because I want to focus my efforts on finding more effective ways to communicate my message and bring about change by supporting organizations and movements that fight for equal rights for minorities."

No word yet on precisely what was at play in his reversal.

But you can be sure Evans felt the brunt of pressure from fans particularly riled on a day the Star-Spangled Banner was being performed by the 82nd Airborne Division chorus and since MacDill Air Force Base is in Tampa.

Evans' stance also was diminished when the Tampa Bay Times disclosed that he had said on his Instagram account after the election that he hadn't voted.

Neither, as it happened, did Kaepernick, who has never even been registered to vote, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Kaepernick told reporters it would have been hypocritical of him to vote because this is all about systematic oppression.

No, it was hypocritical of him not to.

I've defended him before, and I still believe the ripples of his actions have done good, but he lost me by not being registered to vote.

Especially if he thinks a candidate who suggests he leave the country for protesting is indistinguishable from others.

Still, it remains noteworthy that Kaepernick has been vilified for saying the country has problems … even as Trump became president-elect by convincing people of the same: that it needs to be made great again.

And with Trump soon to be in power, based on his campaign, who knows what measures he'll take in the process and what the line will be between what he says and tries to do.

So we can wish for the best and hope that somehow he'll lead differently than he campaigned.

But unless and until that happens, that's why so many are scared.

Not merely because their party or candidate lost but because, as Evans reinforced, of who Trump is.


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