After igniting a firestorm of criticism for his decision to sit down during the playing of the national anthem Sunday to protest Donald Trump’s election, Tampa Bay Buccaneer wide receiver Mike Evans said on Tuesday that going forward he will focus on “more effective ways to communicate my message,” and will stand with his teammates once again this coming Sunday.
In a statement, the Bucs receiver began by apologizing to all members of the military, their families, and the fans who he offended, saying that was never his intention.
“I have very strong emotions regarding some of the many issues that exist in our society today,” he said. “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.”
But the 23-year-old from Galveston added he won’t be sitting out the anthem this coming Sunday in Kansas City, saying, “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. This Sunday, I will be back to standing with my teammates.”
Clearwater GOP state Sen. Jack Latvala lashed out at Evans on Monday in two posts on his Facebook page, writing that his decision to sit out the playing of the anthem was “a slap in the face to our veterans, our active duty military and every freedom-loving American in Tampa Bay. I am deeply offended and will not attend another Bucs game until Evans either apologies or is no longer on the team.”
To add insult to injury for Latvala and other critics, was the fact that Evans chose his form of dissent on the same day the NFL team honored military veterans was unacceptable.
“The military plays a special role in our community,” Latvala said. “We have 12,000 active duty military stationed at MacDill Air Force Base including the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, in addition to our more than 133,ooo retired military living here. We love and respect our military in Tampa Bay. Evans, who makes $3.6 million a year to play football, needs to better understand what we stand for here in Tampa Bay. I call on Buccaneer fans and our community to send him a loud message.”
The fact that Evans didn’t vote in last week’s election also angered some citizens.
Meanwhile, Latvala, never one to not stake out a position, received hundreds of “likes” on his Facebook page for his comments, but also took in his share of negative responses.
“If Donald Trump can say ANYTHING, no matter how hurtful, against a war hero like John McCain, against disabled people, against women, and you are OK with that, a man standing up (by sitting) for human rights is a breath of fresh air,” wrote Ginger Tatarzewski.
“As a Army Gulf War veteran, I can say I’m not exactly happy but certainly not offended,” wrote Bryan Parker. “I fought for everyone’s freedom of speech and I stand behind Mike Evans and anyone else’s right to not stand during the anthem. Why don’t you do us all a favor and come down off your high horse.”