Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter said earlier this year that he wouldn’t like it if one of his players joined the anthem protest movement currently sweeping the NFL. Well, one of his players joined that movement, and Dirk Koetter doesn’t like it.
On Monday, Koetter conveyed his disappointment that Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans chose to protest the national anthem prior to the team’s Sunday game against the Bears.
Koetter told the media, “Yeah, I’m disappointed for that. I also respect Mike’s freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I hope it doesn’t affect our team.
“That’s something I’ll take whatever measures I think are necessary to try to minimize what effect it has on our team. I’m really not sure. This is unchartered water for me. I’m not sure about any of that.”
Evans protest differs from Kaepernick’s in the sense that while Kaepernick directs his protests at racism and police violence, Evans, who didn’t vote in the election, claims his protest responds to the election of Donald Trump. Evans also initially claimed that his protest will continue, “as long as (Trump’s) the president-elect.” But by Tuesday he apologized to those offended and vowed to stand this coming week.
The press also asked Koetter if Evans protest might hurt attendance at Buccaneers games. Koetter responded, “I don’t have control over that. This is all news to me. I’ve been working, getting ready for Kansas City all day.
“I don’t really have a reaction. I’d be disappointed, because I want to fill that place up. That’s Dirk Koetter talking, that’s my personal opinion.”
The media asked Koetter about the implications Evans’ protest might have on attendance, but did they mean to say ratings instead of attendance? Either way, we have at least the tacit admission that Colin Kaepernick’s protests have hurt the NFL’s popularity with the fans. Otherwise, why would they ask that question?
Until now, many liberals in the sports media have firmly denied that Kaepernick’s protests had any effect on the decline in ratings or attendance. The fact that these questions now get asked represents an acceptance of reality among jock journalists not seen until now.
Whether Evans hurts the Buccaneers when it comes to putting fans in the stands remains an unknown. The next opportunity we’ll get to find that out comes this Sunday when the Buccaneers take on the Chiefs at home.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn