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For Evan’s Sake, Let’s Forgive and Move On

Finally, after a long wait, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got their first home win of the 2016 season. A sound thrashing of the Chicago Bears was dished out by the Bucs but unfortunately much of the aftermath was with regards to a sole protest by Tampa Bay’s Wide Receiver Mike Evans.

Before I proceed, I just want clarify my position on Evans’ actions. I applaud him for taking a stance against what he views as injustices. He is still a young man learning his trade in the NFL and also happens to be an elite Wide Receiver. At this point in his career, he has more to lose than gain so his decision to protest is a brave one.

Pre-match protests have been a much discussed topic since Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in a pre-season game to protest against racial inequality. Evans, however, refused to stand during the national anthem as a mark of protest against the election win of Donald Trump (who, after listening to his pre-election rallies, is not a champion for those affected by racial inequality).

Now Evans’ protest alone may not have caused outrage and when viewed against the 100,000’s of people who have been protesting against Trump since the election may seem only like a trivial matter. However, this particular week in the NFL is like no other. Not only is November the NFL’s Salute to Service month, week 10 was also Veteran’s Weekend where all those who have served honourably in the military are thanked.

Understandably, this weekend in the NFL is a highly emotional and well celebrated event and therefore any controversy is magnified especially when a gesture may be seen as being disrespectful. And so the media reporting began, although somewhat strangely only after they game, with regard to Evans’ protest and unsurprisingly not many reports were showing Evans in good light.

Due to the actions of those who have fought for their country, we are blessed with right to freedom of speech and therefore we are free to show our displeasure at decisions which we believe, rightly or wrongly, are incorrect. However, what should be taken into account is not only the location but also the timing of the protest. This is where Evans has failed. On a day where the focus should have been on the military and the job that they do in protecting the nation of which they are serving, Evans’ protest was ill timed at best and could also easily be interpreted as disrespectful at worst.

Of course, the fall-out from Evans’ actions was immediate and in some cases extreme. There were veterans criticising him for disrespecting the flag,  there were Bucs fans vowing never to renew their season tickets, and bizarrely a Bucs fan burning his Mike Evans jersey on-line (seriously!). It is worthwhile pointing out that not all veterans were against Evans. A number of those interviewed spoke up for the player as he was only exercising his democratic right which ultimately these veterans had fought for.

The brief fallout affected his teammates who were asked for their views on their teammate and also his Head Coach who should have been basking in the afterglow of his first home win of the season as HC  but instead was forced to field questions about an event he didn’t realise occurred just yards from him.

Fast forward two days and Mike Evans is back in front of the media apologising for the timing of his protest. He went to great length to explain how he has nothing but the highest respect for the military but also, more importantly, he promises to carrying on being a voice against social and racial injustices which ultimately a protest against Trump is for.

A young man willing to make a stance who just happened to pick the wrong platform to do so. Not the biggest crime in the world is it?

So let’s not hold this against the young Buc and move on. To those fans who vowed never to watch the Bucs again, we’ll see how you celebrate Evans next touchdown. For the Bucs fan who torched his #13 jersey; hope you kept the receipt?

Good on you, Mike, as the easy option would be to do nothing.

Image copyright : Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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