TAMPA, Fla. — “I’m not going to stand for something I don’t believe in.”
So said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Evans as he became the latest high-profile NFL star to protest during the pregame U.S. national anthem.
Before his team’s 36-10 home win against the Chicago Bears, the receiver sat as the “Star Spangled Banner” played, later saying “America’s not right” in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.
“When he ran, I thought it was a joke and the joke continues,” Evans said after the game.
“I’m not a political person that much, but I’ve got common sense. And I know when something’s not right.
“When Ashton Kutcher comes out and says we’ve been Punk’d, then I’ll stand again. But I won’t stand anymore.”
Co-founded by Kutcher, Punk’d is an American TV series that features a series of practical jokes being played on people.
Last week, Trump beat Hilary Clinton to be named the 45th U.S. president, but many of his policies have caused widespread division.
The 70-year-old labeled Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” “criminals” and “drug addicts,” while also suggesting a nationwide ban on Muslims.
Trump also received heavy criticism after a tape emerged in which he admitted to groping women.
Evans said he heard some booing, which he expected, during the protest that came on the Buccaneers’ annual “Salute to Service” game, a day honoring members of the armed forces.
“I don’t want to disrespect the veterans or anything. The men and women who serve this country, I’m forever indebted to them,” he said. “But the things that’s been going on in America lately, I’m not going to stand for that.”
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first to kneel this season during the national anthem, though Evans says his protest was entirely motivated by Trump.
“I know Kaepernick did that,” he said. “I’m doing it for a different reason, for how a reality star can be the president. That’s not a good look. “It’s not about the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or anything like that. It’s just who he is.
“It’s well-documented what he’s done. I’m not gonna stand for something I don’t believe in. That’s the end of that.”
In a short statement released after the game, the Buccaneers said it encouraged all its members to stand but also respected their right to freedom of speech.
“The Buccaneers are deeply committed to the military and honoring the great men and women that have dedicated their lives and have made great sacrifices to insure all the tremendous freedoms we have in this great country,” it read.
“We encourage all members of our organization to respectfully honor our flag during the playing of the National Anthem.
“We also recognize every individual’s constitutional right to freedom of speech, which is crucial to the American principles we cherish.”