ESPN's Sage Steele got called to task recently for her criticisms of Tampa Bay's Mike Evans. To some, she made it about her own insecurities rather than what Evans was trying to say, and his right to be able to say it in any way that he chose.
Her ESPN colleague Josina Anderson responded with a Facebook post in support of Evans.
Anderson wrote, "As an American, and the journalist who Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans’ representative chose to issue his statement, I’m still troubled that Evans decided to cut short a silent protest—as I expressed on NFL Live this week. I understand his desire to no longer be a distraction to his team, but the right to protest peacefully is an important part of our democracy. As such, any questioning of hate-mongering anywhere—particularly on whether it exists around the highest office in America—ultimately shouldn’t be thwarted.
The dismissal of Evans’ protest due to his decision not to vote because it harkens back to the ancestral struggle for this right, or because Evans abstained in a swing state (which a friend of mine thought was irresponsible) is certainly comprehensible. Add to the fact that Evans chose to protest the President-elect by kneeling in the game last Sunday, during the pregame national anthem that was sung by the 82nd Airborne, had a military flyoverand also included a halftime enlistment ceremony as well. So it is reasonable to feel Evans protest was also ill-timed.
However, Evans’ obvious failure not to exercise his vote for whatever reason (whether he mistakenly thought his preferred candidate would win convincingly based on media coverage, or he didn’t like any of the candidates), and the timing of his protest, still should not delegitimize nor mute the underlying concern.
As Evans already underlined and recognized, we all should have the utmost respect for the military who defend our precious freedoms, but those freedoms yet included Evans’ right to dissent, to make any personal sacrifice, or to incur any consequence for doing so.
Whether it is 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling at a game, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick writing a letter to a presidential candidate, Jets center Nick Mangold appearing at a political rally or Lions wide receiver Anquan Boldin speaking to Congress, these sports figures along with every citizen all share the right to peacefully add their voices to a cause, whether we agree or not.
Personally, I feel their individual actions contribute to healthy dialogue overall. Any commentary touting diversity of perspectives, should not take away from an even deeper examination of why sharp divisions are surfacing to this level in our country now, and the solutions we can all focus on to help unify us.
Empathy is bipartisan."