Before Sunday, Mike Evans had not been among the NFL players following Colin Kaepernick’s example and kneeling during the national anthem. But then, before a home crowd Sunday in Tampa and shortly after Veterans Day, the Buccaneers wide receiver joined in.
However, Evans said after the game that the cause of his protest was not the general state of racial injustice or police shootings of black men that Kaepernick and others have cited. Instead, the third-year player pointed to a much more recent event: the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency.
“If [Trump being elected] happens, then America’s not right, right now,” Evans said (via the Houston Chronicle). “I said this a long time ago. When [Trump] ran, I thought it was a joke, and the joke continues.
“I’m not a political person that much, but I’ve got common sense. And I know when something’s not right.”
Evans emphasized that he had no desire to “disrespect the veterans.” He said, “The men and women who serve this country, I’m forever indebted to them. But the things that’s been going on in America lately, I’m not going to stand for that.
“When Ashton Kutcher comes out and says we’ve been punked, then I’ll stand again. But I won’t stand anymore.”
Asked whether he was aware of the jeering his protest provoked among some in the crowd at Raymond James Stadium, Evans said (via JoeBucsFan.com), “I heard it a little bit, and it was from the people that I expected it to be from.”
Kaepernick began kneeling during pregame renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during preseason games in August, and several NFL players, as well as some athletes in other sports and at other levels of football, have followed suit. The 49ers quarterback and Trump have traded barbs on a few occasions since then.
On Sunday, Evans, who caught four passes for 66 yards, said that he would continue to kneel during the national anthem “as long as [Trump is] the president-elect.” It was unclear whether he meant that his protests would end after this season, given that Trump will become the president in January, or continue indefinitely.